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Albert Gates

Memoirs vs. Hitler

(September 1941)

From New International, Vol. VII No. 8 (Whole No. 57), September 1941, pp. 223–4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan.

Ambassador Dodd’s Diary
by Prof. William E. Dodd

Berlin Diary
by William L. Shirer
published by Alfred A. Knopf, $3.00

SINCE the outbreak of World War II, the number of books written and published on Germany seems endless. In contrast to the comparative silence on the subject prior to the war, publicists, journalists, deposed Nazis, business men and others are now the loudest in their condemnation of Herr Schickelgruber and his murderous aides. Each puts down on paper his or her own particular piece of information, usually obtained in the dark of night, in dank cellars, darkened rooms, and vast crowds, from sub-secretaries, restaurants waiters, sympathetic janitors, tap-dancers, “persecuted” financiers and business men. Thus, the gossiper’s view of Germany has been widely circulated and much expert opinion is based thereon.

The diary form of interpreting current events in Europe is, likewise, a popular method of churning out books. There are a large number of these published and sold. More often than not, they, too, are completely unreliable. But now and then one or two, out of a veritable plethora of scribbling, have genuine value. Two books of such value are Ambassador Dodd’s Diary and Berlin Diary.

The two authors were “intellectually” anti-fascist prior to their stay in the Third Reich, the one a famous historian at the University of Chicago, for many years a student in pre-war Germany, an ardent New Dealer; the other, a seemingly sensitive journalist, strongly democratic and liberal.

Neither book is a seriously thought-out analysis of the nature of fascism, its historical place, or its significance in modern society. They are day-to-day reflections. Professor Dodd wrote of his horrified reactions to a barbaric regime from the point of view of a historian of pre-war Germany, and he sought to understand events historically. In sharp contrast, Shirer’s writing is that of a trained journalist who could sense important events and understand, in part, their significance in a collapsing world.

The Period They Describe

The importance of the two books lies in the material they contain. In large measure they support the Marxists in the latters’ analysis of fascism and the true nature of the present epoch.

There is a happy division of time between the Dodd and Shirer books. The Ambassador spent some four years in Germany prior to the outbreak of the war; Shirer was there immediately prior to the declaration of war and through a considerable period of the conflict. Their observations, therefore, dovetail somewhat, the one picking up where the other left off.

A large section of both books deals with the chicanery, the truthlessness, the feudal brutality and the cynicism which are inherent characteristics of fascist rule. The examples cited by the authors are sufficient verifications of the above charges, although in truth such verifications are repetitious. The labor movement for many years has supplied an endless series of such proof.

The books are important for entirely other reasons. They deal, throughout, with the following problems which have troubled, not only bourgeois democracy, but the workers’ movement as well: Is the phenomenon of fascism a “world revolution”? What is the significance of this revolution? Is fascism a new social order? What are class relations in Germany? These questions are not necessarily answered by the authors; they are constantly discussed, however, and both of them are highly confused. But in their confusion, and quite unconsciously too, they supply material which permits answers to all these questions.

Their “World Revolution”

The diarists are convinced that fascism implies a world revolution. But in the concepts of the authors, this world revolution does not mean a new economic and social order. What they really mean, since they are both products of the strongest bourgeois democratic nation in the world and thoroughly saturated with the ideology of bourgeois democracy, is that this is a world revolution of totalitarianism against bourgeois democracy. Dodd, for example, states in various places in his book, that he is not an economist and therefore does not understand the significance of many of the economic measures taken by the Nazis. On his part, Shirer admits that he is neither a historian nor an economist and therefore speaks without authority on these subjects.

Yet the importance in what they do write dealing with the economic characteristics of the Third Reich, is that they demonstrate that it is capitalist, undernourished, diseased, nonconformist, but capitalist, nevertheless. In the peculiar writing method of a diary, Dodd and Shirer show that no fundamental change has taken place in the economic order from that of other capitalist countries. There is greater control, higher taxes, bureaucratic interference and abuse, robber methods of expropriation and brutal exploitation, but withal, it is capitalist. Consciously or unconsciously, the authors show that the all-pervading aim of the German rulers in relation to economy was the preparation for war, the struggle for world domination. Of what? World markets, raw materials and colonies.

Preparing for War

They demonstrate this by tracing the development of German rearmament, illustrating how the Reich industries were totally confined to the production of war materials. In large measure, the conflicts in the ranks of the financiers and industrialists arose over this preparation for the war, the division of profits. The war economy, both diarists prove, was the basis for the economic revival of Hitler Germany. This whole development was accomplished, contrary to popular opinion, in the open. The Nazi leaders made no secret of their plans. It is true that they lied constantly and that lying is part of the fascist system, but behind the public front, every ambassador, consul, journalist, business expert, etc., knew what was happening in Germany, and what the rearmament of Germany implied.

Dodd, throughout his book, deplores the conduct of the British and French ambassadors. He shows their lack of cohesion, how often they were at sword’s-point, back-stabbing each other, the British supporting Hitler at a series of diplomatic crises, the French retiring in anger. He explains the endeavors of France to make a bloc with Italian fascism with the hope of getting at Great Britain in the Mediterranean through such an alliance. Dodd bemoans the manner in which both Great Britain and France sacrificed Loyalist Spain to both Germany and Italy. But this is already old stuff, treated with another pen and based upon information garnered through the diplomatic offices of all countries.

One thing stands out in the two books: Germany could have been halted in the very beginning had England given the French permission to undo the rearmament of Germany and the military reoccupation of the Rhineland. Shirer, for instance, describes the fear of the Nazi leaders and their preparations for flight in the event the French had marched. Actually, the remilitarization of the Rhineland was a gesture which could not have been upheld by Hitler had it been challenged. But in this instance, as in all others, the democratic powers not only permitted the resurgence of German arms, paving the way for World War II, but the Chamberlain government and its aristocratic supporters aided it in a number of ways.

The Fear of Socialism

What prevented action by England and France? In the final analysis it was the determination on their part to prevent proletarian revolutions in Germany and Italy, the fear of socialism. This, as the books point out, was not mere rhetoric on the part of the democratic diplomats. It was their all-consuming fear.

There are other secondary though not less interesting materials in the books which show how American business men, senators, congressmen and politicians flocked to Germany to study the new phenomenon, the new efficiency of “order,” “no strikes,” “static wages,” etc. All of them received their “training” in the true meaning of fascism and they were all “impressed” – especially with the industrial efficiency, which was based on the destruction of the trade unions and the workers’ political organizations. It wasn’t a matter of “trains running on time,” for as Shirer constantly points out there was a damned lot of inefficiency and bureaucratic red tape ,but admiration, a class admiration, arising from a hatred of the militant working class, personified at that time in the CIO movement.

The books are worth reading. They offer a graphic picture of the rottenness of current capitalist society. If apparently they deal only with Germany, they also picture, from another vantage point, the conditions in the other countries. One can observe, if only one has the eyes to see, how rotten, deceitful, wasteful, inefficient and dead is the bourgeois order under which we live. For it is bourgeois society the ambassador and and the journalist describe.

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