War II, the defeat – the ‘Zusammenbruch’- prompted a deep sense of mortification among the common people as well as the elite. After the monarchy had lost
147 KB – 8 Pages
PAGE – 1 ============
Evelin Lindner H umiliation in – War Germany: Personal Reflections Evelin Gerda Lindner Abstract This article first addresses th e various forms of humiliation. The discussion then offers the intricate web of feelings among the German population towards Adolph Hitler. It is argued that y before and after World War I. gave them a sense of importance. Only after World War II did many painfully recognise how he had abused their loyalty. On the other hand, the aristocracy had initially expected Hitler to be their puppet. Instead, he rendered them powerless and humiliated them with his initial political and military victories. After World War II, the defeat – the Zusammenbruch – prompted a deep sense of mortification among the commo n people as well as the elite. After the monarchy had lost the contest in 1918, feelings of humiliation had fed p ublic resentment and instability. In 1945, however, abasement had become an inner experience. Every Hitler follower had reason to feel humiliated by his or her m isplaced devotion to the Führer olf Hitler, to capture their hearts, the aris tocracy for letting it happen. U npleasant feelings of humiliation, denial, ambivalence, and uncertainty represented seduction as my interviews with German survivors of his regime revealed. I ntroduction My interest in the topic of humiliation, which culminated in a docto ral dissertation on the subject (Lindner 2000) was intimately related to my early lif e. I was born into a so – called Flüchtlingsfamilie in what was then West Germany . Together with millions of others affected after World War II, my parents did not flee German Silesia voluntarily in 1945 but were forced out when Poland assumed control. I grew up with an acutely here where we live, we are unwelcome guests, yet, we have no home to go back never , however, intensified by an overt antipathy towards my host environment. Confined to a town near Hanover in Lower Saxony during my school y ears , I began , at the age of twenty, to re construct my life as a global citizen, creating a new identity – a different home, as it were, in the world at large. Whenever I still visit my mother and father, I am greeted by their silent agony and the sad sho rt – about the atrocities of the two World Wars has always been central to my life and work. In this article, I am drawing most particularly on interviews in Germany with members of the aristocracy who had opposed Hitler, with other members of German society, and, not least, with my family. Some of my relatives had advocated Human Rights in the middle of World War II and paid a high price for their compassion.
PAGE – 2 ============
Humiliation and Reac 2 2 Could th e intention to humiliate be the prime force behind the horrors of the Holocaust, genocide, and ethnic cleansing? To shame others in extremis is to seek the destruction of human identity as well as to inflict bodily and psychological pain and exult in the p owerlessness and vulnerability of the victims. The final object ive might be torture and death. There are also less drastic forms of humiliation in which a group or individual expresses contempt for the actions, appearance, or ideology of another individual or group. Humiliation malign and destructive is contrasted by humility and humbleness, which we perceive to be rather noble and benign. There is the humbling of oneself before another less powerful which can be a form of power in itself the self – aba sement of the parent toward an offspring to reduce the disparity in age and power and to show love. There is also the self – sacrifice of a saint in submitting to persecution as a martyr to glorify a supernatural power, as in Christian theology. To show humi lity of this kind is to reach the highest level of spirituality. The kind of humiliation that Hitler and his Nazi followers developed took a far different path from the Christian way. Ironically or perhaps predictably, Hitler himself began as a victim of h umiliation before becoming its master. One of his many deep disappointments arose from his desire to become a respected member of the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. In October 1907 for the second time and was not even admitted to the test. Eberhard Jäckel (1991) explains this vividly. How the. The most intriguing form of humiliation and there are many others is the response that the Wir kleinen Leute haben sowieso nichts zu sagen. Die da oben machen doch was sie wollen! little peopl say anyhow. n Germany was a society in which being insignificant was a daily experience for social inferiors. Since at least the eighteenth century, explains Norbert Eli as , and relatively poorer courts of the German empire it was customary to make social inferiors emphatically aware 1993 , 95). The subdued helplessness of the ordinary folk was an inevi table – world Freeman Dyson ng powe 2005, 5). After years of repressing memories of the Hitler era, Germans are currently re – examining the Nazizeit Zeitzeugen history) are interviewed before t hey die and recollections are lost. The absence of a second Hitler or of a revived sense of resentment and vengeance may play an assisting role in this change of mind. The success of the Marshall Plan and the quick boosting of the German economy to counter act Russian and Communist power to the east furnished the post – war Germans with the sense of success that makes genuine confrontation with the past more palatable. In private homes , as on TV chat shows, people are beginning to talk, even those who have bee n almost completely
PAGE – 3 ============
Humiliation and Reac 3 3 silent for over 50 years. Interpreting the Nazi past has aroused healthy controversy. The conservative historian Ernst Nolte argues that the Hitler regime, for all its irrationality, was an attempt to blunt the expansion of Russian Bol shevism. Exasperated with this self – justification, remains unique. It was perpetrated by Germans in the name of Germany (quoted in Tachibana 2005 , 5 ) . Over the years, on trains, in shops, or in waiting queues, whenever I travelled in Germany, I overheard the uncensored voic e of the ordinary folk who well – die da oben a wayward dead brother or uncle who had gambled away everything but who still was kin and half – forgiven as a result. The attitude appeared to be most ambivalent shame that they had , so to speak. Hitler Wenn das der Führer wüßte! der Führer used to repeat that sentiment when Hitler still was in power and when something went wrong in the administration or government. They asserted die da oben could do In short, what I observed showed that Hitler must have managed in an ingenious way to be perceived by the lower orders as someone who appreciated them, as being on their side, directing and protecting t heir well – being and security. He did this, they thought, by challenging the upper He managed a seemingly impossible feat, namely an escape from responsibility for the many problems and military disasters. He not only escaped accountability but succeeded in laying th e blame on others a transfer of condemnation that strengthened his own position with his dedicated followers. H itler and the Broad Masses : A L ov e A ffair From the very start of his climb to power, Hitler made clear his intention to reach the insecure but pliable German masses. In Mein Kampf , Hitler (1999) analyses the failure of the Pan – Germanic movement in Vienna. In this context he explains that t masses are required. They alone are determined and tough enough to carry through t he fight to 94). He continu es ( 98 ) : (T) he power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone. Particularly commoners can be moved only by the power of spe ech. And all great movements are popular movements, volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotional sentiments, stirred either by the cruel Goddess of Distress or by the firebrand of words hurled among the masses. Only a storm of hot passion can turn th e destinies of peoples, and he alone can arouse passi on who bears it within himself.
PAGE – 4 ============
Humiliation and Reac 4 4 Rainer M . Lepsius (1993) analyses his charismatic leadership. Hitler was a master in displaying and inciting emotions; his repertoire ranged from heroic pathos to passionate tears. By being like ordinary people and at the same time their leade r, he elevated them beyond their lowly concentrating it upon a Mein Kampf , Volk ability to sacrifice for the Endsieg (final victory) and offered easy solutions for the masses never before in history taken so seriously. Hitler even arranged for symphony orchestra mu sic to be identify ing themselves as stalwart members of the Aryan race. suffrage a recent achievement was in a sense thrown away by a majority of German women who elected him to power. Many were de eply attached almost in love with Hitler. Women were glued to t he radio whenever Hitler spoke, as I learned from a multitude of sources. Aliso n Owings (1995) verifies the point. Suppressing thoughts of an individualistic nature, Hitler elicited volunta ry submission on a large scale in th e name of noble l ove, faithfulness, and loyalty particularly from women. To meet his purposes they became wives and mothers of soldiers and assemblers of weapons and little else. Norbert Elias (1996 , 387 ) writes: On and one of t he main factors in his success was his intuitive, emotional understanding of the needs which a leader of the Germans and his crew had to satisfy in a critical situation. His own emotional needs corresponded to those of his followers. He reacted, without much reflection, to their emotional signals, verbal or non – verbal, with the emotional signals which they demanded and expected of a leader if they were to trust that he would be able to save t hem from an apparently hopeless s ituation of danger and despair. Franz Janka (1997) impressively sketches the collective dream, which Hitler amalgamated in his personality. His thought he asked them to want Endsieg stand in the eyes of many Germans between them and tota 1996, 387) . Only Volk alise Endsie a suicidal goal. But the reaction was not to condemn the past but to reconstruct it in a way that kept it familiar and less discomfiting. H itler and the A ristocra cy : A Humiliation With the bulk of the population adopting the role of faithful followers, the aristocracy found itself irrelevant. They had gloried in their right to rule. It was mortifying to be governed by a dieser Ge freite lowly place in the military ranking order, which the aristocracy used to lead. Furthermore, he was hiding behind the Volk . In less than two decades the formerly powerful elite suffered three blows to its c lass pride. The first was the loss of World War I and the Versailles Treaty. Since
PAGE – 5 ============
Humiliation and Reac 5 5 the well – born were the primary carriers of national sentiment, they, above all, experienced the humiliation arising from the Versailles Treaty. The abdication of Kaiser Wilh elm II and the founding of the Weimar Republic was the second disaster in their view. It entailed the the rise of Hitler involved the most unbelievable degre e of dishonour. He had not only snatched new and totalitarian order that left them outside the domain of power. According to a testimonial (August 3, 1999) th at I received during fieldwork in Germany, members of the German elite who joined the Nazi cause felt debased: they were forced to work the young and highly contentious Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, with the war and its architect rather late. According to Martyn Housden, even conspirators like the more elderly General Ludwig Beck, a member of the old Prussian order, long ignored many ( 1996, 99.) But eventually, to Beck and others in the largely Prussian military elite , it grew clear that Hitler was relentlessly steering the passions of the nation to its ultimate perdition. What could have been worse? The ill – born Austrian artist did not deserve to be head of state. It is scarcely a wonder that some viola ted the code of German submission to authority in plotting assassination. For some among the well – almost a vindication of both their marginalisation during the Weimar years and their opposition, however muted and ineffective, to the dictator. Housden (1996) , Malinowski (2005) and Mommsen (2005) the aristocracy and i ts resistance. As to the German middle classes , a now 79 years old intellectual ( on 22 nd September 2005) explains – by – step Salamitaktik (salami tactics). Among the most powerful element at his disposal was the support of the Volk who gave Hitler the legitimacy to build institutions of terror that forced the rest of the German population into submission. One of Sippenhaft when somebody showed resistance, his wife and children were threatened. There is not enough space in this article to explain the case of the middle classes in more depth. Why the Germans Were Not Depressed after the Zusammenbruch unshakeably in the Führer until he was dead, and perhaps for 1996, 387). After the Zusammenbruch at the end of World War II, Germans immersed themselves in work. One might have expected that for the most part they would become either angry or depressed. After all, large territories were lost to Poland learned to despise as lowly beings. Germ an defeat and military occupation for which humiliation was a palpable outcome did not lead to fury, vengeance, and retaliation as it had in 1918. supposedly too immatu re, too inadequate, to meet his demands. But, despite his disloyalty toward them, the members of the lower classes had come to understand that they were important
PAGE – 6 ============
Humiliation and Reac 6 6 and that their work could make a difference. Labour became the new passion because its intens ity helped to repress more unmanageable thoughts. Sacrifice for family needs and the regularity of work replaced any ideology, even the glories of national honour. Meanwhile the – elm the nation without summoning the courage to stop him. Their only feeble satisfaction was to say to parvenu The s e sentiments came from interviews with members of the aristocracy whose families had been involved in attempts to assassinate Hitler (3 rd August 1999 ) . A woman, born 1930 in Breslau, capital of Silesia, into a world that was defi ned by Hitler, experienced the Zusammenbruch when she was 15. Suddenly the sweet and protected gi rl found herself in a new world where she was percei ved as part of the evil German perpetrators by Poles and Russians, free to be raped and abducted. Her mother tried to protect her. Until she dies, she might never be able to tell whether her mother succee ded or not. Then the day came when the order was given that everybody had to gather at a certain place in town, only take what they could carry, and leave the key of their homes outside the door. In va in, she tried to carry her bed. Like millions of others , she lost everything, her home, her Heimat ( homeland ) , her childhood security. She never recovered. Now, 60 years later she submits to chronic trembling. For weeks, she quakes from fear and wrath. In an interview (4 th September 2005 ), she declared: The l onger I live, the more I develop a n enormous fury, compounded by the fact that I feel so helpless, that a handful of criminals, who turned themselves into the slaves of a single man, could lead the German people and half of the world into such total ruin . ( Je länger ich lebe , desto mehr habe ich eine unbändige und ohnmächtige Wut, dass eine Handvoll Verbrecher, die einem einzigem Mann hörig wurden, das deutsche Volk und die halbe Welt so nachhaltig ins Verderben führen konnten ) . A nother German, soon 80 yea rs old (born in 1926 in Silesia), saw his two beloved elder brothers die as soldiers in vain. Toward the end of the war, he himself was drafted and tried to resist and hold on to humanity. He was punished. At the age of twenty, his life was no longer that of a happy farm boy, lovingly caring for his family and his animals. His father, it could be said, died of grief. The son lost the fam ily farm that he was to inherit, as well as one arm in the last days of the war. In addition, he lived through so many hor rifying experiences that he will never all, exclaims the dispossessed German: (T) he human being is a social creature and easily influenced, manipulated and se duced. In order to prevent disaster, one must swim against the current and do so b efore it becomes far too late. Many ask The reply is that at a certain stage, nothing could be done anymore. What we need most are exemplary lead ers (Interview, 4 th September 2005). We all welcome exemplary leaders. However, perhaps institution – building is more important. Avishai Margalit (1996) wrote The Decent Society , in which he calls for institutions that no longer humiliate citizens. Decency reigns w hen humiliation is being minimis ed, humiliation in
PAGE – 8 ============
Humiliation and Reac 8 8 Author Evelin Gerda Lindner (MD, PhD [Dr. med] and PhD, [Dr. social psychol ]) refers to herself as a global citizen who starts from the premise ‘ that the desire for recognition unites us human beings that it is universal and can serve as a platf It is when respect and recognition are failing, that those who feel victimised are prone to highlight differences in order to “justify” rifts that were caused, not by these differences, but by something else, namely by hum iliation.’ Her interest in and contribution to the study of humiliation led to an invitation in 2001 from the Columbia University Conflict Resolution Network to start up a program on Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HDHS). Since that time Dr. Lindner has devoted her time to writing books and articles that address the origins, development and effects of humiliation. She has traveled the world ‘forg(ing) a network that knits togeth er academia and practice in innovative ways and helps prevent and avoid cycles of humiliation and instead promote equal dignity.’ This issue of Social Alternatives is one of the many ways in which the work of the HDHS reaches out to the world and inspires others to join its network. Suggested blow – ups To shame others in extremis is to seek the destruction of human identity as well as to inflict bodily and psychological pain and exult in the powerlessness and vulnerability of the victims. Only too Volk Endsie unattainable and a suicidal goal. But the reaction was not to condemn the past but to reconstruct it in a way that kept it familiar and less discomfiting. For some among the well – vindication of both their marginalisation during the Weimar years and their opposition, however Labour became the new passion because its intensity helped to repre ss more unmanageable thoughts.
147 KB – 8 Pages