D’oh! How’d I become a Nazi?

Here’s a bummer of a bit of information that some elderly Germans are discovering:

Hundreds of elderly Germans are being confronted with the revelation that they were recruited into the Nazi party during the second world war.

Historians researching Nazi party archives in Frankfurt have discovered that a string of prominent Germans were among those automatically granted membership to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

Writers, a cabaret artist, scientists, journalists and politicians, including former cabinet ministers, are among those whose names are on the list.

According to records, they were part of a group of Germans born between 1925 and 1927 recruited en masse on the Führer’s birthday on 20 April 1944…

While there is general acceptance that most of those on the list became card-carrying Nazis against their will, the findings have unleashed a passionate debate among German historians over the extent to which Germans were willing followers of the Nazis and how many were unwittingly sucked into the party machine.

I can see how this sort of news would be a major buzzkill.

Of course, the question that would be hard to avoid is how many of them actually knew about it at the time and didn’t mind (or were even honored). Even so, given the totalitarian nature of Nazi Germany, it would be tough to figure out who was willing and who was not. Even though it was clear by April 1944 that Germany was losing the war, it would have been–shall we say?–unwise for those who found out about their new “honor” to protest or reject it.


  1. #1 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 24, 2007

    Did you know at the time that you had become a microfascist?


  2. #2 Keith
    July 24, 2007

    That’s even worse than being baptized a Mormon after you’re dead.

  3. #3 bernarda
    July 25, 2007

    German-bashing is Orac’s hobby-horse, but he doesn’t seem to care about holocaust “survivors” shameless profiteering from a semi-permanent German guilt trip.


    “A group representing thousands of children of Holocaust survivors filed a class-action lawsuit against the German government on Monday, demanding that Germany pay for their psychiatric care.

    The Israelis, calling themselves second-generation Holocaust survivors, say the scars of the Nazi genocide on their parents have crossed generations. Many still live with an irrational fear of starvation and incapacitating bouts of depression, the lawsuit claims.

    The lawsuit marks “the very first time that the German government will be asked to take responsibility and to care for those of the second generation in Israel and indeed, worldwide,” attorney Gideon Fisher said before filing the suit at the Tel Aviv District Court.”

    How many generations still are going to try to get on the gravy train?

  4. #4 Rebecca
    July 25, 2007

    And apparently, Bernarda, Jew-bashing is your hobby-horse. When you say “survivors” with scare-quotes, are you implying that the Nazis did not in fact murder 6 million Jews? How would you like it if one or both of your parents had survived the concentration camps and had passed on their nightmares to you?

  5. #5 Chris
    July 25, 2007

    Oh, awesome; a Holocaust denier in the wild!

  6. #6 Dianne
    July 25, 2007

    When you say “survivors” with scare-quotes, are you implying that the Nazis did not in fact murder 6 million Jews?

    To be fair to bermuda, just for the intellectual exercise, the scare quotes could be because the story he/she is quoting is about the children of Holocaust survivors, not people who ever experienced the Nazi regime first hand. The scare quotes still aren’t really justified, since the children of Holocaust survivors are clearly going to be traumatized by their parents’ experiences and so of course are, in some senses, the victims of that bit of historical evil. However, at some point, one simply has to say enough is enough and give it up. Has that point been reached yet? Very few Germans alive now were even alive in the Nazi era, still fewer old enough to participate in–or try to stop–the Holocaust. The current government is completely different in form and content from the Nazi government. What can people currently living in Germany be said to be guilty of? (This is not a sarcastic question, by the way and not one that I think necessarily has to be answered “nothing”. Maybe there is a residual guilt. Myself, I think that the German government ought to help the children of Holocaust survivors simply because they are people in need and it is the right thing to do. But what do I know?)

  7. #7 Eike
    July 25, 2007

    Hi Dianne,

    they do not plan to sue any individuals but the Federal Republic of Germany, which declared itself to be the legal successor (if that’s the right term) of Nazi Germany. So guilt or non-guilt of any living individual is quite beside the point, the FRG claimed the assets of the “Third Reich” so it also has to deal with its liabilities. To deal with legal responsibilites that exceed the life span of individuals is more or less the point of a democratic nation.

    On topic, I think the Guardian has the story a bit wrong when it outright claims that “membership [to the Nazi Party] was automatically granted”. That was the matter of recent discussions – where they recruited without their knowledge, as most of them claim for themselves, or was written consent necessary to become a party member, as evidence suggests. I’m not aware that the question has been resolved one way or the other.

    I’m all for strict moral standards but even I would have to say that this is a moot point anyway – we’re talking mostly about people who where 17 or 18 at the time and had spent most of their lives under Nazi rule. Nobody could have seriously expected them to be resistance fighters or something.

    — eike

  8. #8 Dianne
    July 25, 2007

    So guilt or non-guilt of any living individual is quite beside the point, the FRG claimed the assets of the “Third Reich” so it also has to deal with its liabilities.

    That pretty much settles that argument, as far as I can see. At least insofar as the question of are they suing the right people goes. Whether the secondary victims are going to get anywhere claiming legal damages I don’t know. Medically, at least some of them can almost certainly trace at least some of their mental health problems to their parents’ experience. (Yeah, that’s weasel wording, but in any given group of people, some are going to have mental health problems that have nothing to do with their membership in the group, so I would feel uncomfortable with any claim that ALL their mental health problems are due to secondary trauma from the Holocaust.) But how good the legal case is, I have no idea.

  9. #9 bernarda
    July 25, 2007

    Rebecca and Chris make me laugh. By “survivors” I obviously meant the second generation who were not even born at the time. Of course for Rebecca, criticizing hypocritical racist Israelis who are looking for an easy buck, must be “jew-baiting”.

    As for Chris, he is clueless. But whatever zionist fanatics say and how they transform anything into “holocaust denial” doesn’t surprise me. The author of this blog has already done it.

  10. #10 Greg P
    July 25, 2007

    I was just reading an article in The New Yorker about a prominent Israeli who is concerned about what he sees as the constant invoking of the Holocaust by Israelis against any opposition or to justify anything that the government does to Arabs.

    Sooner or later, the Holocaust needs to become a part of history that we can remember and learn from, yet not serve as either a sword or shield against ones opposition.

  11. #11 JP
    July 26, 2007

    Well, that’s just lovely. I’m sure saying “hypocritical racist Israelis” isn’t Jew-baiting either, nor is it anti-Semitism. Same for “zionist fanatics”.

    I would never go so far as to call bernarda up there anti-Semitic; for that, I should have more comprehensive proof. Oh, no, I have another problem to solve first. Can someone explain to me how the Israelis are hypocritical or racist, or how Chris (and possibly Rebecca) are zionist fanatics?

    Man, I just can’t seem to figure out how anyone could draw such conclusions from the comments above, or resort to ad hominem attacks so quickly.

    (And can I get a guesstimate as to how soon the Palestinian situation will be cited to support the racist charge, despite the fact that they aren’t related to the original post or comments?)

  12. #12 bernarda
    July 26, 2007

    JP, the apartheid Israeli laws; the Warsaw Ghetto-type wall that Israelis are building in the West Bank; the dropping of more than a million cluster bombs on Lebanese civilian; the collective punishment of destroying Palestinian houses; the destruction and confiscation of Palestinian orchards and farmland. To name a few.

    Propagandists like orac continually talk about WWII only in regards to Europe. No mention of what Japan did to the Chinese and other Eastern Asians. Estimates I have read range from 15 to 30 million Chinese killed. There were also the Philippinos and Malaysians and Indonesians who were massacred.

    There were “medical” experiments on Chinese prisoners in Japanese camps in Manchuria. I would think that at least would interest orac. But apparently no.

    This eurocentrism is implicitly racist.

    Where are the Chinese in the U.S., or in China, who are constantly lobbying for reparations? At most now they are simply asking recognition by Japan of its war crimes. There is one group, the “comfort” women who do still try to make their case, which is entirely legitimate.

    But where is the outrage and where are the comments about this. No, it is always holocaust this, holocaust that. A double-standard in other words: if you are not a white European, you don’t count.

  13. #13 Reality Czech
    July 26, 2007

    I suppose that bernarda thinks that the Israelis are violating the human rights of the “Palestinians” (an identity which did not exist when the West Bank and Gaza were under Jordanian and Egyptian rule and was created only to sustain a sense of grievance) if they put up walls to prevent Hamas from blowing up women and children in pizza parlors and night clubs.  I’d love to see his justification for Qassam rocket attacks — I bet it’s a laff riot.

    The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was Hitler’s special guest during WWII.  As long as the Muslims (I include the Persian Iranians as well as Arabs) maintain that Israel should be erased and the Jews pushed into the sea, the Holocaust will remain relevant to current events.

  14. #14 Rebecca
    July 27, 2007

    Without intending to give Bernarda any handy weapons, I do think it is possible to support Israel without denying the existence of the Palestinians before 1967. I just read a fascinating book, “One Palestine, Complete,” by Tom Segev, about the British Mandate period. One of the things he writes about is the rise of Arab nationalism, and specifically the nationalism of the Arabs of Palestine. From reading the book, I think that there was a specific sense of Palestinian Arab identity already starting in the early 20th century, before WWI and the Mandate. There certainly was a nationalist movement that began to grow during the Ottoman period and became much more important under the Mandate.

    The problem with Bernarda is that he/she/it is simply trying to find as many weapons as possible with which to attack those he thinks of as his “enemies,” rather than discussing in an interested way the topics he chooses to focus on.

    Of course people other than the Nazi Germans committed atrocities during WWII – those of us who actually believed the Holocaust occurred and was horrible do not at all deny the horrors inflicted on the Chinese or the Koreans by the Japanese militarist regime. In fact, I would say personally that my awareness of the Holocaust makes me pay more attention to horrors inflicted on people other than Jews, and also opposed to denial of those atrocities (e.g., opposition to the position of the Turkish government which challenges anyone who says the Turkish regime committed genocide against the Armenians in 1915).

  15. #15 tim gueguen
    July 27, 2007

    When we see regular attempts by North American and European groups to deny the crimes of Imperial Japan Orac will no doubt discuss them. Yet strangely we never do see such claims. You’d think the Neonazis would want to deny those crimes as well to help out their old allies.

  16. #16 JS
    July 28, 2007

    Not to mention the fact that Orac has – of course – written about the Japanese atrocities during WWII. And rather well at that. A pity I lost the link. It is worth a re-read.

    – JS

  17. #17 bernarda
    July 29, 2007

    Rebecca makes a good point in referring to Segev’s book. As a reminder, the Palestinian National Congress sent representatives to the post-WWI peace conference to demand independence for Palestine. They were refused. It wasn’t their fault, and they already did have a sense of identity. If they were made part of Jordan or Egypt later, it was not their desire. The decision was out of their hands.

    What did the British do after the peace conference? They appointed a Jew, Herbert Samuel as High Commissioner. Samuel put forward the idea of a British protectorate was in favor of the racist Balfour Declaration. At the time, Jews were about 10% of the population.

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