what they want to hear

by Flint Whitlock, The Beasts of Buchenwald, pg. 15.

“It mattered not to a great many people that this man, Adolf Hitler, had a funny, postage-stamp moustache and a raspy voice and had failed at his dream of becoming an artist or an architect and had been a homeless beggar on the streets of Vienna before the war and wasn’t even a native-born German. What mattered was the mesmerizing, hypnotic spell his speeches cast on those listening to him. What mattered was the way his talks always began slowly and quietly and haltingly, so that everyone had to strain to hear his words, then built to a thundering crescendo, much like an opera by his favorite composer, Richard Wagner. What mattered was the fire in his messianic eyes as he told his audience what they wanted to hear—that it had been the Jews and the communists working secretly behind the scenes that had undermined the German Army and had brought about the catastrophic defeat. What mattered was his message that he and his Nazi Party were the only ones who could reverse the nation’s descent into certain chaos and irrelevancy. What mattered was that he and he alone could stop the contamination of “impure” races that threatened to weaken the pure, Germanic, “Aryan” race. What mattered was that Hitler and his steadfast vision and his unshakeable will promised to restore Germany to its former greatness. What mattered was that Hitler saw the Germanic people as a species of super humans, destined to rule the world.

Hearing what they were fervently desperate to believe, millions of otherwise sensible Germans decided to join the Nazi Party, slip on the swastika armband or pin on the Nazi Party lapel pin, yell Sieg Heil! (“Hail Victory!”) at the inspirational mass Party rallies, give each other the stiff-armed fascist salute, and blindly follow their Fuhrer, no matter where he led.

So it came to pass that in 1932, through a series of bizarre, almost comic-opera occurrences, and the naive belief by those in power who thought they could control the upstart Austrian radical by bringing him into the government, Hitler proved more cunning than any of his foes. His Nazi Party quickly became a force to be reckoned with in Parliament and Hitler himself was named Chancellor of Germany.

Of course, not all Germans held the fervent belief that Hitler was Germany’s savior. Not every German thought that nazism was good for the country, nor that the Jews should be excluded from German society, nor that government control of almost every aspect of civilian life was a worthy goal.

For these people—these non-believers—Hitler and his minions had a special place.

It was called the Konzentrationslager—the concentration camp.”

Leave a Reply