The Nazi Elite

The Nazi Elite

The Nazi Elite

The Nazi Elite

Excerpt

The Fuehrerlexikon, The Nazi Who's Who of 1934, was an old stand-by during World War II for all those who had, in one way or another, to deal with Nazi Germany. On the whole, it proved a reliable guide to the Nazi Party elite. Its deficiencies were quite evident to every user: The Lexicon was clearly padded by the inclusion of certain Germans of high repute (particularly military and academic figures) who, while sympathetic to certain policies of the Nazi movement, could not then be considered Nazis; but it omitted equally important figures (particularly industrialists and bankers and high civil servants) who, while not having joined the Party, were quite indispensable to its victory. With these two limitations, the Lexikon proved, indeed, a reliable guide. The present study by Professor Daniel Lerner and his associates uses the biographical data of the Lexikon in order to analyze the Nazi Party leadership as a counter elite "specialized in the use of organization, propaganda, and violence to gain power."

It will be my task in this Introduction not so much to praise this study, which deserves it without qualification, but rather to indicate its relevance for the study of Nazism and for political science.

Some may infer from the study that an elite may seize power if it dedicates itself wholeheartedly to "organization, propaganda, and violence." Clearly, the study neither says nor implies this. Such would be the view of a school of thought which believes violence alone to be the lever of history and which thus considers the historical setting as totally irrelevant. The Babeuf, Blanqui, Bakunin school has its modern counterpart in the little book of Curzio Malaparte, which found wide circulation in pre-1933 Germany. Malaparte, spreading the gospel of putschism, considered Mussolini's March to Rome the prototype, and ridiculed Hitler as the "would-be leader" because of his reliance on opportunist parliamentary methods. On this basis, Malaparte predicted that Hitler would never come to power. His analysis thereby reenforced the smugness of German Social Democracy, followed with the prediction, on the day that Hitler came to power, that National Socialism would be blocked by parliamentary legality.

The opposite was indeed true. It was precisely Hitler's "legality" that made his victory possible, and it is here--precisely at this point-that the differences between the Nazi and the Bolshevik elites become clear. The Bolsheviks indeed came to power through a classical revolution; the Nazis did not. They did not because they could not, and they knew they could not.

Hitler had attempted his putsch in 1923. It had failed lamentably because he could not then gain support of the army, the high civil service, and the industrial and banking classes. To those groups, a putsch involved . . .

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