Revolt Against All That Was Old And Rotten
We are rapidly approaching this moment in America.
THERE WERE five million unemployed in Germany in 1931; industrial production had dropped by one third in two years. During the same period the membership of both the Communist and National Socialist youth organizations doubled, a political symptom in itself not mortally dangerous to the Weimar republic, for the extremist youth organizations in Germany never played an important part in politics; but it was an alarmingly true reflection of the flight into extreme political opinions and, above all, of the radicalization of the middle classes. Other countries were hardly less affected by the world economic crisis, but they had richer reserves of political strength.
In Germany large sections of the middle classes believed that political democracy was a foreign importation unsuited to German conditions, and there had been signs of anti-liberal and anti-parliamentarian unrest since the very first years of the Weimar republic. To say anything in its defense was decidedly unfashionable, especially among the younger generation, who never identified themselves with the regime; if it failed to cope with the situation, or if, as a ‘system’, it seemed irresponsible, rotten, and doomed to fail, why should they care? They hardly ever thought of it as their own state. Long before the crisis reached its climax one of them wrote that dictatorship suited the style of leadership ‘Fuhrerstil’ of the younger generation, because it took responsibility away from anonymous society and transferred it to a man of flesh and blood. As for liberalism, there was no greater abomination; ‘German youth turns away from liberalism with nausea and especial contempt, for there is nothing so contrary to their world outlook…In the liberal man German youth sees the enemy par excellence.’
Moeller van den Bruck was perhaps overstating their opinions, but not much. Many of their generation were or became anti-capitalists and to some extent anti-Western; “The West” was their synonym for the American way of life, of which a largely distorted picture was current among them and for Versailles powers who meant to keep Germany enslaved forever.
— Excerpted from Young Germany: A History of the German Youth Movement (1962) by Walter Laqueuer
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