The Nazi War on Western Civilization

December 24, 2014 | Daniel Johnson
About the author: Daniel Johnson, the founding editor (2008-2018) of the British magazine Standpoint, is now the founding editor of TheArticle and a regular contributor to cultural and political publications in the UK and the U.S.

Nazism, writes Daniel Johnson, is best understood as a movement to destroy Western civilization, a goal it shared with Soviet Communism. Too few Europeans understood this in the 1930s. One who did was Aurel Kolnai, a Hungarian Jew who moved to England, fleeing the rising tide of continental anti-Semitism:

Kolnai’s great achievement was to show that Nazi ideology was animated by a hatred of Western civilization. Nothing less than its total defeat would suffice. “The Western cause does not mean a nation set against another nation, not even a party fighting another party: it means the world of civilization organized in moral self-awareness versus the rebels to mankind.” He was clear that “the conflict between the West and Nazi Germany is inseparably connected with the inner problem of Western society.” Kolnai also saw that the enemies of Western civilization had already combined “in an embryonic form” during the Great War. We know that as a young man in Budapest, he ardently prayed for an Allied victory over the Central Powers, even though the defeat of his Hungarian countrymen led to the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, revolution, counterrevolution, and his own exile. He warned that “the Soul of the West is everything. There must be a spark to kindle the fire; there must be a living and active core around which to align mankind: the West aware of the menace of its Foe, and all that is Western and akin to Western essence, outside the West.”

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