March 01, 2008

What follows are a few brief responses to the often informative comments generated by my comments on the “€œNazi”€ Stauffenberg. Never would I deny that the opponents of the Nazi regime were limited to the July 20 conspirators. The activities of the Weisse Rose, a group of anti-Nazi students in Munich who were executed in 1943, and the anti-Nazi stance of the great Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was remotely involved in and later hanged for a failed attempt by German Intelligence officers to kill Hitler in 1943, were admirable, noteworthy deeds. And the expressions of opposition to the Nazis could be extended well beyond these particular examples. But what rendered the July 20 conspiracy leaders special was their quest for a political way out of Nazi tyranny, one that extended to the highest levels of the military and diplomatic corps and one that tried unavailingly to enter into serious negotiations with the Allies. One of Stauffenberg’s confidants, General Ludwig Beck, had been conspiring against the Nazi regime since 1938, and he had hoped that a stiff resistance from the European powers to Hitler’s demand for the Sudetenland at the Munich conference in September 1938 would topple the Nazi state. Unfortunately Beck failed to obtain the desired cooperation from the English and French, but he did manage to stay in a high military position until 1944, when he helped lay the foundations for the July 20 plot. In short, the Stauffenberg conspiracy was not a solitary dissent to Nazism but a well-organized political effort.
Another comment that might require a response is that the neocons are calculating “€œhaters,”€ who need a scapegoat in order to succeed. That is not my view. Rather I have argued that the neocons are products of a particular Jewish urban subculture, one that was created by Eastern European immigrants in the early twentieth century and one that is believed to have “€œmoved toward the right.”€ The likes and dislikes of the descendants of the immigrants who came to these shores are entirely typical of the culture from whence they come. What renders the neocons politically dangerous and sometimes rhetorically unbearable is the amount of media power they have been allowed to accumulate, and the fact that they have managed to occupy, thanks to their liberal friends and “€œconservative movement”€ opportunists, the heights of the establishment Right.
If the neoconservatives had remained relatively insignificant bearers of ethnic grievances, such as IRA supporters in South Boston, their peeves and interests would be of no world historical importance. David Frum and John Podhoretz would be raging against Germans, Russians, Arabs and American Southerners in the confines of their houses or in meeting halls and nobody but sociologists would even notice. Given their power, however, neoconservatives can effectively dress up their prejudices as moral statements and historical facts that command public attention. Their barely disguised repugnance for the Russian nation, as two commentators recently observed on this website, has led them into pushing positions that have outraged the Russian government but resonate well with Senator McCain and other Republicans. Together with neoconservative support for anti-nationalist propagandists in Russia, these positions are exacerbating tensions between the US and the Russian nationalist president Putin. In short, their considerable influence allows the neoconservatives to do far more political harm than merely distort the historical past.  
Mr. Meehan is correct, and I was wrong, about the failure of the bomb that had been placed near Hitler to detonate. The problem was the placement of the bomb rather than any internal problem with its mechanism. (The reader is referred for these and other details concerning the conspiracy to R. Cort Kirkwood’s judicious essay on As for the expectation that the successful Stauffenberg would return from his mission and then help his co-conspirators remove Nazi officials, the General’s wife and friends suspected that he might not survive the assassination. And Stauffenberg himself gave indications that this might be the case. Moreover, given the lack of Allied cooperation in their efforts, it is hard to see how the conspirators could have attracted large numbers of German followers.
There was no reason to believe that even if the plot had succeeded, the anti-Nazis could have changed the Allied resolve to punish the Germans severely for having started a “€œsecond world war.”€ And it is highly unlikely that the Western Allies would have turned against Stalin, who was then moving his armies across Eastern Europe, even if Hitler’s regime had been toppled. Assurances had been made by then by Churchill and Roosevelt to give territory in Eastern Europe to the Soviets, while making Stalin’s government part of the postwar occupation of Germany. The July 20 plot was a heroic gestures but one that in view of the international situation could not have ended in anything but disaster. The statement by the conspirators that they were acting to “€œrestore German honor”€ was the only justification that in retrospect one could give for their utterly selfless deed.


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!