Thursday, June 9, 2016


Tuesday with too much retirement Time on hand I watched Triumph of the Will* for the first time, surprising as I’ve seen so much Third Reich material over the years and this early b&w film is perhaps their best known and most fascinating production. Released in 1935 and overlaid with English subtitles 
runs an hour and three-quarters. Riveted, I was stunned that a society, culture, national mentality had evidently been so totally made over in the two years since the 1933 NSDAP taking power. In so short a time, the transformation of a nation, fanatically enthusiastic and entirely complicit, seemed incredible. But it happened.

It could not happen here, but quite frankly, this sort of thing is on my mind for the next four to eight years in American life and more, the public as disgusted, impatient and angry, though Germany was sizably more manageable, and uniform of mind in economic chaos and postwar bitterness. Nevertheless, the opportunity for exploitation of prejudices, fears and hatreds seems as ripe, the populace naive, combustible and historically oblivious. It could not happen here, but we are witnessing the ground being cleared. Already a slogan, next a symbol.

In their case, why generals who gathered with their leader did not do something, especially von Manstein, who reportedly muttered upon closing the door after conferences, “My God, what an idiot.” Except that a first precept of the military mind is obedience, one wonders why neither Manstein nor other scornful high commanders with access had courage at some point to follow Marcus Junius Brutus, and more competently and sacrificially than selfishly and cowardly setting the scene and leaving, as at Wolfschanze. 

How it will be with us, is my angst, and how will it end. A new wall, new triumph of the will, new edicts, new hatreds, new oaths, new concentration of perceived enemies within; then a loud report.  


*German: Triumph des Willens 

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