Tetens, The New Germany and the Old Nazis
book essay by
Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
About Joe Cole (back to top)
I am a sophomore double majoring in History and Ethical Philosophy. Even though I would not prefer pursuing a career involving either of those two subjects, I enjoy history as a topic, and 20th century history is my favorite time period. I chose to write about the resurgence of Nazism because it is not something I previously knew a whole lot about, and learning a little about it in class was not enough to satisfy me.
The New Nazis and the Old Germany is a book written in 1961 that seeks to show readers that the German people have not turned into the complacent NATO allies many people in the West think they are. Tetens brings up numerous examples of Neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism and the book is a powerful wake up call to those who are turning a blind eye to these facts. Although, like any modern reader, I went into Tetenís book knowing how the next 45 years turned out, that Nazism did not make a comeback, it is eerie to learn that it might have been close. My thesis restates Tetensí, but also states that Nazism did not come back to the fore in Germany.
The New Nazis and the Old Germany by T.H. Tetens is a powerful work written in 1961. By the evidence Tetens produces, it seems to be a distinct possibility that Nazism and fascism will once again rise in Germany. The Germany that the "esteemed president emeritus of Harvard" Dr. Conant finds, "a people who have turned their backs on the German Past" (Tetens 19), and Chancellor Adenauerís proclamation that "Anti-Semitism had disappeared" (Tetens 75,143) are sharply contrasted with the Zind Case, the Koeppern Case and similar affairs that Tetens alludes to. Tetens discusses the Naumann case and the significance of their plot to take over the government as well as the infiltration of the government, Bundeswehr, and those Germans who were polled as being Christian Democrats by former Nazis with much alarm. Tetens critically views in the same light the proliferation of ex-Nazi armed forces groups and neo-Nazi organizations as well as the rural areas where Nazism and anti-Semitism simmer below the surface. I found this book by accident; I picked it off of the shelf because its title intrigued me. I started reading the first chapter and found that the first chapter, along with later parts read a little bit like fiction. The premise interested me because it fit in with what I had been reading in the Fulbrook book, namely how the new Germany integrated the old Germans. I wanted to see how close a revived Nazi regime was, since Fulbrook and lecture both presented startling figures concerning the numbers of Nazis reintegrated back into the government of West Germany. (Lecture 2/3/06) Tetens presents a cohesive argument that Nazism is a resurgent threat to the new democracy in West Germany in 1961, even though it has been sixteen years since the end of the war and official Nazis, although by virtue of modern hindsight, Adenauerís absorption of former Nazi elements into the Bonn government had the desired effect of turning the former fascists into Democrats.
Essay (back to top)
The book begins with a description of the events that led to the Zind Affair, which became internationally infamous not just because of the anti-Semitism involved, but the "revelation that the authorities had tried to hush up the case." (Tetens 11) Tetens points out the irony present in the speech made almost simultaneously by the president Emeritus of Harvard, Dr. Conant, who proclaims triumphantly "Nazism is dead and buried." (Tetens 19, 20) Tetens then goes on to talk about the Naumann affair, which serves to illustrate how one conspiracy headed by Dr. Werner Naumann, a former State Secretary in Dr. Goebbelís Propaganda Ministry, wanted to infiltrate the West German government in order to resurrect the Nazi movement. One of their nefarious plans included infiltrating former Nazis into the government through the various parties. As the book goes on to show, former Nazis are prominent in the Adenauer government, and whether it is through infiltration or genuine reform is a recurring suspicion that Tetens raises. Tetens brings up the example of Dr. Globke, whom some call the "second most powerful man in the command" (Tetens 39), who was involved in the formation of the Jewish racial laws and various instances of sending Jews to concentration camps, and Tetens points out the charges by the Social Democrats that he is now involved in "filling many key positions with ex-Nazis." (Tetens 40) Tetens also brings up Herbert Blankenhorn in the Foreign Office, Dr. Oberlaender as the Minister of Expellees and Dr. Seebohm as the Minister of Transportation. All were prominent Nazis. The infiltration of the CDU, especially in the ultra-rightist northern provinces, was in full force after the Socialist Reich Party was declared unconstitutional.
A group of ex-Nazis who called themselves the Alliance of the War Generation decided to join the CDU "quietly and gradually" in order to fill in the CDUís "undetermined power structure." The CDU also made pains to court the attentions of veterans and the expelled refugees. (Tetens 64, 65) At the same time that thousands of ex-Nazis were infiltrating the establishment, scores of Neo-Nazi organizations had sprung up, ranging from ex-SS to Youth Groups eerily reminiscent of the Hitler Youth. Tetens then turns to what he started the book with: that is, cases of anti-Semitism. Although the cases of anti-Semitism are starting to be punished with increasingly harsher sentences, thanks to the German press and "criticism from abroad" (Tetens 145), the courts are still full of ex-Nazi bureaucrats and judges, many of whom had been explicitly involved in the Nazi regime in similar positions and had contributed to the horrors perpetuated by said regime. Many other elites had been able to reintegrate themselves into German society, even the red-jackets, whom Tetens defines as the pardoned inmates of death row. (Tetens 181) Indeed, many of the war criminals whose release was demanded received warm welcomes home, and Tetens uses this to stress the predominance of Nazi ideals even though that regime officially ended. Further support of his theory on the resurgence of Nazism in the populace and government is the reluctance with which restitution payments were made, as contrasted against the pensions doled out to ex-Nazi fighters or their widows. Tetens also points to the ex-Nazis who are now teachers and school administrators, who have made a concerted effort to keep the youth from learning about the evil deeds and atrocities instigated during the Nazi years. Tetens ends on the question of whether we really can trust West Germany, and that only time will tell whether or not it was wise to install Nazi elements in the new regime.
One of the recurring themes in Tetensí book discusses the attitude of many Germans towards Jews, synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. The Zind case and the Koeppern case are both discussed in detail. The Zind case takes place in the town of Offenburg and deals with Ludwig Zind, a teacher, making various anti-Semitic comments towards Kurt Lieser, a Jewish textile dealer. The case becomes infamous internationally because of the comments Zind made, but more so because of the "revelation that the authorities had tried to hush up the case." (Tetens 11) This shows that the Bonn government was not so much concerned with justice as it is with presenting a clean and anti-Anti-Semitic image to the world at large. Even after the verdict was handed down to Zind, the entire community of Offenburg supported him, and Zind was able to flee quite easily to Egypt, where he immediately got a job. This further not only shows the reluctance of the Bonn government to effectively enforce its verdict, but also that the rural populace still supported anti-Semitism and members of the old regime.
The Koeppern case is similar in that it also takes place in a rural area, the village of Koeppern. The Sumpf family business is boycotted by the people of Koeppern and the family is verbally and physically attacked merely because they are Jewish. (Tetens 140) Eventually they are forced to abandon the family business and move. Similar to the Zind case, the local authorities did nothing to either alleviate the problems facing the victims or to protect them, and when bought to the attention of officials at a higher level, there was an attempted cover-up. It was only outrage at an international level that caused an investigation. The trial resulted in virtual slaps on the wrist, as by far the worst punishment of the eleven bought to trial was a jail sentence of four months. (Tetens 142) The Koeppern case serves to illustrate the anti-Semitic sympathies that many authorities had, especially in rural areas. Although anti-Semitism was not a new concept before the Nazi regime, it was certainly focused into destructive energies little imagined before and that still have the potential to horrify even today.
The Nazis Attempt to Regain Power
Another element that is recurrent throughout the book is the reemergence of Nazis in alarming ways. Some examples of this are plotting by ex-Nazis to take over the government or different parties, the insertion of ex-Nazis into powerful governmental offices by third parties, and the popular rallies often held in the countryside by Neo-Nazi groups. The Naumann affair consisted of an actual plot by over 100 prominent Nazis to infiltrate the rightist parties, their final goal being the "overthrow of the Bonn Parliamentary regime." (Tetens 25) Initially, since it was the British who made the arrests, general opinion in Germany, including Adenauerís, was in favor of the seven arrested co-conspirators. It was only after the Germans assumed control of the case that Adenauer admitted "the existence of a far-flung plot." (Tetens 27) Still, Naumann and the rest were released instead of being held in prison, and "their case was quietly dismissed." (Tetens 28)
The handling of the Naumann case served to illustrate two facets of the Adenauer administration. First, that the Adenauer administration was eager to avoid scrutiny over ex-Nazis, whatever their capacity, no matter that there was proof that they were willing to topple the government and install a Neo-Nazi regime. Second, that releasing them and not allowing the trial to be held revealed that there were parties inside the Bonn government that wished them no enmity. Indeed, as the book goes on, it certainly seems that the prevalence of Nazis inside the West German government suggests that many individuals would have wanted the Naumann affair and others like it to succeed, including ex-Nazi groups and those who remembered the glory days under Hitler and Fascism.
Another group of ex-Nazis, styling themselves the Alliance of the War Generation found themselves without a party when the SRP was outlawed. Rather than join one of the Rightist groups that was already chock full of ex-Nazis, the Alliance of the War Generation decided to join the burgeoning CDU. There were two reasons for this. First, they feared that lending their support to one of the three Rightist parties might be the deciding factor in that party being outlawed. More importantly though, they saw that the CDU still had an "undetermined power structure" and that they would be able to assume leadership roles almost immediately because of the skill and knowledge they possessed. (Tetens 60) The CDU needed the votes, and so turned a blind eye to their new supportersí Nazi pasts.
Why Adenauer Allowed Former Nazis to Come Back
By presenting Germany as completely reformed to the outside world, Adenauer was able to ensure that Western aid would continue to flow into his country. Even while acts of anti-Semitism were occurring in his country in early 1959, such as the Koeppern case, Adenauer "flatly declared anti-Semitism and National Socialism had disappeared". (Tetens 75) At other times, Adenauer dismissed the recurring swastika graffiti as work done by "non-political teens, drunks, cranks" and even "Communists." (Tetens 240) Adenauer probably rightly feared increased scrutiny from the West if he took any other line, increased scrutiny that probably would have led to a lower degree of autonomy for Germany than Adenauer was seeking.
However, on the other hand Adenauer of course wanted the new Germany to be run smoothly. No doubt this is part of the reason some skilled ex-Nazis staffed key positions, such as Dr. Globke as the head of the Federal Chancellery, and as such a top aide to Adenauer. The reasons for this are twofold. First, by allowing some of these former Nazis to help out the country and his administration, Adenauer was able to use their skilled help to turn the Bonn government into more than just a puppet of the Western powers in just a few short years. Second, Adenauer wanted the support of ex-Nazis because they represented a large power bloc. When the Socialist Reich Party, the SRP, was outlawed, the CDU, like other parties "opened their arms to embrace the homeless Nazi votes." (Tetens 59) However, the Adenauer administration was likely looked very favorably upon not only because Adenauer had embraced some Nazis into his CDU party already, but also for other reasons, such as that Adenauer was working hard to free the war criminals from prison. (Tetens 102) In many areas the CDUís percentage of the votes increased as much as 30% of the vote, which obviously helped Adenauer and the CDU not only to stay in power, but increase it. Indeed the extra votes were a far cry from the one vote Adenauer had won on in 1949.
Although we have the wisdom of hindsight, and we obviously know that the Nazis never did come back to power, certainly Tetensís book and research provide a compelling case for the potential emergence of a neo-fascist regime. Indeed, with conspiracies like the Naumann affair plotting to take over the government, this seemed to be avoided at times by mere luck. In retrospect, history will applaud the choices Adenauer made in stabilizing his country and absorbing the old Nazis into both his government and his administration. Adenauer needed to make these deals with the old Nazis in order to utilize the skilled statesmen Hitlerís regime had raised, but also for their political support. To the world he proclaimed that Nazism was dead, and anti-Semitism had disappeared in order to gain the support necessary for semi-controversial policies and greater German autonomy by being more than a Western catís-paw. (Tetens 75) Although there were many cases of anti-Semitism, such as the Koeppern case and Zind case, Adenauer had to downplay them in order to get support abroad. Even though these rural communities still seemed to be full of staunch Nazis, Adenauerís absorption of former Nazi elements into the CDU had the effect of turning them into democrats instead of them turning the CDU into another National Socialist Party.
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Any student tempted to use this paper for an assignment in another course or school should be aware of the serious consequences for plagiarism. Here is what I write in my syllabi: