Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was one of the most renowned European philosophers of all time. However, his admirers were bereaved about his Nazism and his role in the death of the European Jews. His works are still revered all over the world. Martin Heidegger as a person has been written about by many writers like Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jean-Paul Sartre, Emmanuel Levinas, Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Jurgen Habermas. Through their writings it has been underlined that the character of Martin Heidegger was shrouded in mystery. Among the writings the best known was Paul Celan’s ”Death Fugue.” The incidents depicted in the poem have underlined the general happenings of the German society during the period of Nazism. The political background of Germany and the society played a huge role in the development of Nazism. It has to be stated here that Nazism has been regarded as one of the darkest happenings in the 20th century. The paper will deal with the political and the social backgrounds of Germany that played a key role in the development of Nazism in the country. This is to be done in the background of Paul Celan’s ”Death Fugue.” The poem beautifully depicts the condition of the country at that time. Though it has been written keeping in mind the character of one person, the essence of the poem covers the sentiment of the whole of Germany at that point of time. (Porty, 3rd May, 1998).
Death a master
It has been stated earlier that the basis of the paper is the poem written by Paul Celan. The inspiration for the poem is Martin Heidegger. It was proved that Martin Heidegger was an activist of Nazism and thus the character and the incidents depicted in the poem are common to Nazism. Therefore, it forms a very important background for the study. In this regard it is necessary to have some parts of the poem in the paper. This can be depicted as follows:
“Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon death is a master from Germany
we drink you at sundown and in the morning we drink and we drink you
death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue
he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
he sets his pack on to us he grants us a grave in the air
he plays with the serpents and daydreams death is a master from Germany
your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith” (Hamburger, n.d.).
This is the last paragraph of the poem where the phrase “death is a master” has been used. The last paragraph alone can depict the character of the figure depicted in the poem. It can be found out that the character is a ferocious figure whose mere sight can bring in death. As this poem was depicted as one of the Nazis, it can be safely assumed that the condition of the society at that time was horrible. This cannot be brought about suddenly and huge political and social happenings should have played a role in the development of the movement. This will be dealt in the following paragraphs of the paper. (Death in modern Germany, 2004)
Background of the Nazi party and Hitler
It has been widely accepted that Nazism has been one of the black spots of the modern day political world. To know the reason of the birth of the movement, the name Adolf Hitler has to be analyzed to full extent. Hitler was the principal architect of the birth of the Nazi party and the subsequent Nazism. Hitler was born in Austria and lived in Vienna during his childhood. He has an intense liking for art but was not given admission in an art school in Vienna. When the First World War started he was recruited by the German army. He impressed during his duties with the German army. Legend says that at one time he was responsible for catching 21 people at one instance. However, during the war he was injured and he had to be admitted to the hospital in Germany. Due to the brutalities of the war he was weakened to the extent that it took considerable amount of time for him to recover. However, when he recovered he got employment in a courier company in Munich. During his work he came in contact with the German Worker’s Party. He was influenced by the policies of the party and soon joined it. He was to become one of the most influential figures of the party in the later days. He gained prominent position in the party in 1919 and was one of the 7 executive committee members. Hitler was responsible for many policies to make the party larger. In one of his policies, Hitler prepared invitation cards for a meeting which was to be held in a beer cellar. The invitation cards were told to be provided to the friends and families of the members of the party. However, not many people came to the meeting. Hitler got the chance for the first time to speak in the meeting. To many people’s surprise, Hitler was one of the most passionate speakers in the meeting. In his autobiography Mein Kampf he writes, “I spoke for thirty minutes, and what before I had simply felt within me, without in any way knowing it, was now proved by reality: I could speak! After thirty minutes the people in the small room were electrified and the enthusiasm was first expressed by the fact that my appeal to the self-sacrifice of those present led to the donation of three hundred marks.”
In 1920, Hitler became the head of the party and carried the fortunes of the party in his shoulders. That he was a good speaker was already established and he began to organize meetings for the parties. The meetings of his parties were resented by the Marxist revolutionaries. However, Hitler never discouraged the Marxists in disrupting his meetings because he knew that this would increase the sympathy of the people for his party. In one of the meetings that took place in 24th February, 1920 a huge gathering took place. However, there were a considerable number of Marxist revolutionaries in the meeting too. But the support for Hitler grew and the applause of the supporters soon drowned the shouting from the Marxists. In this meeting, Hitler recommended the 25 points that went on to become the guideline of operations of his party in the days to come. According to Hitler, “When after nearly four hours the hall began to empty and the crowd, shoulder to shoulder, began to move, shove, press toward the exit like a slow stream, I knew that now the principles of a movement which could no longer be forgotten were moving out among the German people.” It was in 1920, that Hitler introduced the swastika as the symbol for the party and gave the new name of the party as National Socialist German Worker’s Party. In short this was called Nazi. After he went onto become the leader of the Nazi party he displayed his political skills that would engulf the country in the days to come. (Pust, n.d.; Bendersky, 2000:87; Scaife, 2004: 71).
Political reasons for the birth of Nazism
During the 1920s, the party leaders from all the parties in Germany realized that Hitler was the man that can overthrow the revolutionary Marxists in the country. Hitler also realized the fact and he went to Berlin in 1921 to talk with the other parties and discuss the terms and conditions. However, the other leaders were jealous of the popularity of Hitler and formed an alliance with each other. This was learnt by Hitler and he resigned from the Nazi. The leaders realized that resignation from Hitler would mean that the Nazi party would die a premature death and the sympathy of the public would go against them. Thus, Hitler was persuaded to join the party. However, Hitler stated that he should be given all the powers as the chairman of the party. A vote took place and Hitler was heralded as the new leader or the “Fuhrer” of the party. The popularity of Hitler made the number of members of the party grow in the days to come. Hitler and his party tried in vain to overthrow the Government in the Berlin. However, they were unsuccessful in the attempt. At the same time, the economic downturn set in Germany and most of the leaders of the Nazi party along with Hitler were imprisoned. The incident of imprisonment of the Nazi leaders made them iconic in the eyes of the people in Germany. (Pust, n.d.; The rise of the Nazi party, n.d.).
The economic downturn of the economy in the country also decreased the number of members of the Nazi party. As a result the percentage of the votes in the election of 1932 was lesser than expected in the Nazi party’s favor. The party gained 33% of the votes in the election. However, Hitler was the master of negotiations and the President of the country Paul von Hindenburg was taken into the aide of the party and Hitler was promptly named the chancellor of the country in 30th January, 1933. Hitler used his political skills to increase the powers of the Nazi party in the Government in the days to come. On 5th March, 1933 another election took place and the Nazi party got 44% of the votes in that election. It was assumed that Hitler used various tactics to increase the votes in the party’s favor. Despite the protests of the other parties, Hitler assumed the role of the chancellor of the country and strengthened the position of the Nazi party in the Government. The Enabling Act passed on March 23, 1933 made Hitler powerful to form rules and regulations that did not need the President to pass them. Thus, the Hitler Government assumed the role of the dictatorship Government in the country. On 14th July, 1933 with the help of the Enabling Act, Hitler stated that the party would be the only one in the political world in the country. He was considered as the leader of the country and Hitler organized the political conditions of the country as well as the party according to his liking. The officials in the higher positions of the Government were ordered to become the members of the Nazi party. In fact if they were not the members of the Nazi party they were not kept in the positions of the Government. As they become the members of the Nazi party they were to follow the rules and regulations of the party. The rules and regulations of the Nazi party and the popularity of Hitler gave rise to the “Hitler Myth” that underlined that Hitler was wise and powerful. However, it has to be stated that Hitler was helped in his operations and organizations by many of his Generals. The top officials of the Nazi party were given separate responsibilities that had to be fulfilled by them. The officials of the Nazi party were to report to Hitler but they were given freedom in the day to day activities in their field. (Kershaw, 2001: 253; Nazi party, n.d.).
In the case of the International policies, the Nazi party and Hitler were aggressive in establishing the German way of life all over the world. The country and the party made demands of the countries and threatened to go to war if the demands were not met. It has to be stated that the German army was headed by Hitler and was organized well. In fact it was one of the most developed armies in the whole of Europe. The country was able to conquer and enter into settlements with most of the countries in Europe. Hitler invaded Poland in 1939 which started the World War II. The whole world was divided for and against Germany. The country conquered most of the continent by 1942. However, the Nazis were defeated by Soviet Union in 1942. The World War II was one of the blackest points of the 20th century. It took the lives of 40 million people. (Del Testa,D, Lemoine,F and Strickland, J, 2003: 83).
One of the most disrupting images of the Nazi regime was the treatment meted out to the minorities in the country. The Jewish were considered as the secluded part of the society. They were to wear yellow badges in public from 1941. The “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” conference was headed by Reinhard Heydrich took into account the final treatment to be meted to the Jews. From 1941 to 1945 about 6 million Jews, 6 million Poles, Romanies, Slavs, Soviets were put to death. The countries and the provinces that were taken under control by the German forces were to go through ethnic cleansing. This was commonly called the holocaust. This incident increased the opposition of Hitler in the country as well in the other countries from the world. (Snyder, n.d.).
Hitler played a key role in the development of the German economy. It has to be remembered that when Hitler came to power, the German economy was in the down and most of the people were suffering from unemployment. However, the policies of Hitler helped the German economy to recover from the downs of the early part of the 1930s. For the development of the economy, the Nazi party took into account the mixed economy. The key parts of the Government were managed by the Government while the other avenues for opened for investments from the private parties. According to Richard Overy, a historian, “The German economy fell between two stools. It was not enough of a command economy to do what the Soviet system could do; yet it was not capitalist enough to rely, as America did, on the recruitment of private enterprise.” (Overy, 1995: 205)
Thus, it can be stated that the Nazi party and Hitler played a key role in the poltical world of Germany. Though many facets of the Government of the Nazi party helped in the development of the country, there were some aspects like the Holocaust and the World War II that tarnished the image of the German Government. There were deaths everywhere and most of them were because of the policies of the German Government.
Social reasons for the birth of Nazism
The policies of Hitler in most of the aspects can be brought about by the political reasoning. However, the reason for the holocaust had traces in the social reasoning. Hitler had a special hatred for the Jews. However, the reason for this has not been inferred to this day. In his book, Hitler had written, “For the Jew was still characterized for me by nothing but his religion, and therefore, on grounds of human tolerance, I maintained my rejection of religious attacks in this case as in others. Consequently, the tone, particularly that of the Viennese anti-Semitic press, seemed to me unworthy of the cultural tradition of a great nation”. It has to be stated this was in the early part of his life and during that time he viewed the Jews as normal people in the society. (Lindsey, 2000: 201;Victor, 2007:18)
Dietrich (1988) studied the life of Hitler and found that there was no particular reason for Hitler or the Nazi party for the disliking of the Jews. However, he found out that the Nazi party was close to the German society. The disliking of the Jews was a common part of the people of the society in the 1930s. The Germans considered themselves as the prime component of the world. The holocaust was an incident that did not only involve Jews but the people of the other countries as well. Hitler and the Nazi party rose to the power and were popular because of their unconditioned love of the German people. This love translated in making them believe that they were superior to the other people in the world. They also believed that they have the responsibility to cleanse them of their deeds. In one of his speech, Hitler stated,
“During fourteen years the German nation has been at the mercy of decadent elements which have abused its confidence. During fourteen years those elements have done nothing but destroy, disintegrate and dissolve. Hence it is neither temerity nor presumption if, appearing before the nation today, I ask: German nation, give us four years time, after which you can arraign us before your tribunal and you can judge me! ….
“I cannot rid myself of my faith in my people, nor lose the conviction that this people will resuscitate again one day. I cannot be severed from the love of a people that I know to be my own. And I nourish the conviction that the hour will come when millions of men who now curse us will take their stand behind us to welcome the new Reich, our common creation born of a painful and laborious struggle and an arduous triumph—a Reich which is the symbol of greatness, honour, strength, honesty and justice.”(Why Hitler hated Jews, n.d.).
The speech clearly underlines the social sentiment during the time in Germany. Thus it can be stated that the incidents of the holocaust was because of the social upbringing of the people in Germany.
One of the worst incidents of the Nazism era was the holocaust. One of the major reasons for the holocaust was anti-semitism. It took the form of racial discrimination among the people in the country. The Jews were made responsible for the state of the economy at that time. In addition to this, the Jews were considered as a group of people that were ranked lower than that of the Germans. The Germans were held responsible for the start of the World War I. They were ordered to give back the land they had conquered in the World War according to the Treaty of Versailles. The loss of the World War II made the state of the economy of the country bad. This affected the pride of the people in the country and the Jews were held partly responsible. The Germans under Hitler developed into a brutal force and they found it apt to conquer more territories in the other countries. (Why did the holocaust happen, 2011; Zapotoczny, n.d.)
Several works have been published in the field of the holocaust that took place in Germany during the time of Nazism. It was univocally accepted that National Socialism was one of the main factors for the incidents of holocaust. This was brought forward by the works of Daniel Goldhagen in Hitler’s Willing Executioners (1996). According to Goldhagen, the holocaust took place because of the “eliminationist antisemitism” that was an unique feature of the German national identity. This type of “eliminationist antisemitism” developed in the medieval period when it was based on the religions. However, it took the form of secularism in the 20th century. According to Goldhagen most of the German population knew about the holocaust and supported the incidents. (Zank, 2008). According to Rogers Brubacker, Groupism exists in the modern world due to the “social constructivism”. This is not an evil for the society but the ability of the leaders like Hitler to make the people group under a certain objective and goal. According to him, the nation is “practical categories, situated actions, cultural idioms, cognitive schemas, discursive frames, organizational routines, institutional forms, political projects, and contingent events.” Thus, it cannot be denied that racism exists in the modern world. Nations are “perceiving, interpreting and representing the social world.” The social conditions in Germany at that time helped in the growth of groups in the society. (Goina, 2004). Van Der Berghe’s nepotism theory underlines the fact that the kin selection in the biological world is carried out among the relatives and their own genes. Thus, it is not surprising that the human beings will favor their relatives’ people of the same group and would look to eliminate the others.(Brigandt, n.d.). The psychology of evil suggests that men turn into killing beasts because of certain factors like social anonymity, knowledge of the evil, social happenings etc. These incidents transform a peaceful man into an evil person. In the case of Germany, knowledge about the Jews transformed them into killing machines and took the birth of holocaust. (Zimbardo, 2004). Hanna Arendt stated that the banality of the evil is a game of brain that is played by the man going in the path. (Hanna Arendt and Stanley Milgram, n.d.).
Wolffsohn in 1998 was against the general notion that the Germans were responsible for holocaust and debated that most of the Germans were not aware of the happenings. He stated that the world should stop blaming the Germans for it. The Jews were holocaust because of the conditions prevalent in the society and the economy at that time. (Rudolf, n.d.). However, according to me the holocaust was a result of the “eliminationist antisemitism” described in the earlier paragraph. In addition to this, the groupism and the nepotism also played a role. Without these factors the holocaust would not have taken such a huge size and extent.
It has to be stated Hitler and the Nazi party played a key role in the history of Germany. The regime of the Nazi party helped in the development of the country but it also had some black points. The poem described in the early part of the paper was set in the Nazi Germany and portrays the life during that era. The period was market by deaths and fear of the people. This was because of the political agenda of the Nazi Government and the international relations meted out by the Hitler Government. The Nazi party was responsible for the start of the World War II. This took millions of lives all over the world. In addition to this, the holocaust activities were a shame to the German administration. This was because of the social upbringing of the people in the country. Thus it can be stated that the condition in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s cannot be brought about suddenly and huge political and social happenings should have played a role in the development of the movement.
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