The biggest democratic failure of 20th century

The World War I was over. German Revolution was declared a success and Weimar republic was proclaimed. But the suffering from the Great Depression and unfavorable conditions of Treaty of Versailles couldn’t not help but widen the gap of declared system of parliamentary democracy and the harsh political and economic reality of the country. Important factor exacerbating the situation was a right-wing myth that Germany lost the war because of the German Revolution. Radical left-wing communists, on the other hand, were playing with popular emotions by trying to combat what they saw as capitalist policies. To quench the political instability, a rather controversial figure was appointed as Chancellor of Germany on 30 January, 1933.

His rise was difficult and littered with obstacles. It started when the German government received reports of an imminent terrorist attack. A terrorist had launched feeble attacks on a few famous buildings, but the media largely ignored his relatively small efforts. At the time the man who claimed to be the nation’s leader had not been elected by a majority vote and many claimed he had no right to the powers he coveted. Six years later, this leader did not only command popularity and patriotic feelings of his nation but was also hailed as the “Man of the Year” by Times magazine.

He was a simpleton and had a coarse use of language. His simplistic and inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric offended foreign leaders and the well-educated elite. And, as a young man, he’d joined a secret society with an occult-sounding name. The only visible talent he possessed was drawing.

You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history,” he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned building, surrounded by national media. He used the occasion to declare an all-out war on terrorism, originating, according to him, in the Middle East and in their religions.

Four weeks later, the nation’s now-popular leader had pushed through legislation – in the name of combating terrorism – that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and habeas corpus. Police could now intercept mail and wiretap phones; suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges; police could sneak into people’s homes without warrants if the cases involved terrorism. To get his patriotic “Decree on the Protection of People and State” passed over the many objections of concerned legislators, he agreed to put a four-year provision on it. Citizens who protested the leader in public – and there were many – quickly found themselves confronting the newly empowered police, jail cells.

He wanted to stir a “racial pride” (based on eugenics of Gobineau) among his countrymen and began referring to the nation by “Heimat” (Homeland). Playing on this implicitly racial nationalism, he argued that any international body that didn’t act first and foremost in the best interest of his nation was neither relevant nor useful. He withdrew his country from the League Of Nations in 1933, and in 1935 negotiated a naval armaments agreement with England. To further consolidate his power, he reached out to industry, bringing former executives of the nation’s largest corporations into high government positions.

His propaganda minister orchestrated a campaign to ensure the people that he was a deeply religious Christian. Every then German soldier was sporting a belt buckle with “Gott Mit Uns” (God Is With Us). Along the same lines, he declared that the nation had clear Christian roots, that any nation that didn’t openly support religion was morally bankrupt. Many government functions started with prayer.

His speech on April 12, 1922 included:

“My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers … was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter.

“As a Christian … I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice…”

But after an interval of peace following the terrorist attack, voices of dissent again arose within and without the government. Students (later regrouped as White Rose) had started an active program opposing him and leaders of neighboring nations were speaking out against his racially discriminatove rhetoric. His propaganda minister ntensified the nationalistic campaign. Those questioning him were labeled “anti-German” or “not good Germans.” Another technique was to “manufacture news,” through the use of paid shills posing as reporters, seducing real reporters with promises of access to the leader in exchange for favorable coverage, and veiled threats to those who exposed his lies.

In 1939, to “attenuate” the economic decline and re-unify the nation, he pointed at an external threat: Czechoslovakia (despite English warnings). Shortly after, Poland was invaded in a “defensive, pre-emptive” action.

As his propaganda minister said:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

This dictum not only became reality in Germany but also with it, the leader’s popularity grew as the nation plunged into yet another world war.

The leader of the nation was Adolf Hitler who put an end to the first democratic experiment in Germany.

3 thoughts on “The biggest democratic failure of 20th century

  1. great writing .. there is another parallel i once read, the german transcendentalist movement at the turn of the century morphed into the nationalist party .. everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics – peguy

    smart blog post, should be on the national news

  2. Thanks a lot Gregory for your feedback!

    I also liked the quote on mysticism and incredibly enough there are plenty of historic examples of how mystic movements and developments turned into full-scale political systems- Knights Templar and Freemasonry as good examples!

    Recently, I wrote an article on Bismarck and his Kulturkampf – his one major political failure. I would love to hear what you think of it. It is at

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