Two New Biographies Show How Anti-Capitalism, Conspiracism, and Fear of Contagion Shaped Hitler’s Anti-Semitism

March 17 2020

Reviewing two recent books on the life of Adolf Hitler, one by the German historian Peter Longerich and the other by the English historian Brendan Simms, Andrew Stuttaford examines their insights into the origins of their subject’s antipathy toward Jews:

Longerich does not duck a discussion of Hitler’s personality when looking for the source of the pathological anti-Semitism that came to define his life and ended six million others’. “Environmental” considerations are not enough. The answer, argues Longerich, is not to be found in Hitler’s vagabond youth in Vienna, a city in which “anti-Semitism was a fixture of everyday life” (and, for that matter, politics). . . . The best explanation, believes Longerich, lies in the shame Hitler felt at Germany’s defeat in [World War I], a shame that could not be softened by a resumption of career, friendship, and family life, of which this eccentric loner had very little.

Unable to accept the real reasons Germany had lost, Hitler, a fantasist since his adolescence, took refuge in a dreamworld of conspiracy theory in which Jews were allocated a uniquely malevolent role.

A letter from September 1919 is the earliest surviving text in which Hitler sets out his views on the “Jewish question.” Central to it is Hitler’s argument that Jews were (in Longerich’s words) behind “the unscrupulous and amoral greed of finance capital. . . . Anti-Semitism (and not the socialism of the left) was the key to removing this exploitative system.” The same letter also attracts Simms’s attention. He sees Hitler’s anti-Semitism as being “profoundly anti-capitalistic rather than anti-Communist in origin,” so much so, indeed, that, to Hitler, Bolshevism itself was little more than an instrument of Jewish capital.

But such conspiracism reads more like the symptoms of a psychosis than its cause. The same can be said of Hitler’s reference to Jews in the letter as the “racial tuberculosis of the peoples,” language (cited by Simms and Longerich) that suggests that Hitler’s obsession was already well in place, and already contained the seeds of mass murder: a disease, after all, should be eliminated.

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Read more at National Review

More about: Adolf Hitler, Anti-Semitism, Capitalism, Communism

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy