The fact that National Socialism could only win the confidence of the youth after the war after finally giving them their particular dynamism and their political weight, full of promises. In this vibrant youth the forces of revolt put in question all the bases of existence, of the entire established order. Without understanding the situation, we cannot have access to the spirit of the post-war generation. 1918 represents a rupture with immeasurable consequences in the unfolding of German history. What came after had little relation with what proceeded it.
The generation before the war was formed in an epoch where Germany had greatness and a considerable weight on the international scene. The generation that made war was still full of this past glory. Though these two generations feel powerless today in Germany, they do not realize the heavy consequences that arose. Their memory is still habituated to the past glory that once gave meaning to their lives. The humiliating present appears to them like a confused dream, like a blow of terrible fate but passing.
The old Germany remained for them the true Germany and they didn’t doubt one day or another the country would be reborn with the power of all its force and splendor. For them, the situation today is nothing definite. They believe they live in an intermediary and provisional state. They find an interior support by holding the hope of the next return of the better past times. The optimism of foreign policy, disappointed a thousand times, can be explained by this.
The conditions of life of the post-war generation are entirely different. They have fundamentally lived in this Germany in its impotence, it material dependence on foreign policy, and lack of means of defense. The heart of this youth was never touched by the direct experience of a fatherland, majestic and proud of its existence. For it, political bitterness, social misery, and economic ruin are natural elements, always present in their everyday lives. Prewar Germany is for them a historical memory to be put in the same scheme as the memories of Otto I, Frederick Barbarossa, and the state of Frederick the Great, this peerless Prussian. When the old generation reproaches this “historical” attitude of the youth regarding the Reich, it sometimes happens that they respond with cruel questions. Was not the destiny of the Reich in your hands? Was it not precisely you who lead to its loss? Yet how many times have you yet refused to take responsibility for the misfortune you provoked? Where did you find the courage to want to assert yourselves so pretentiously on the political stage? Was it not you who was ill prepared for the war, who didn’t know to lead it, in order to finally lose? And more, did you not dare to compromise the future of the German people with scams in matters of politics of finance and loans? And far from the conclusion of the Young Plan, did you hesitate to deliver in an infamous fashion, generations yet to be born to a painful task of tribute?
Deeply, the work and the heritage of the old generation is only a field of ruins. What they lead to was an immense chaos. For this reason, it cannot impose neither respect nor authority on the post-war generation. Seeing the sum of its existence as collapse, it cannot require it to hold them in esteem. The lack of consideration for the young generation regarding its elders is the reflection of their bankruptcy.
The post-war youth dragged behind them heavy consequences of this bankruptcy. The young people of all social classes, jurists, teachers, employees, and workers find themselves before closed doors. The horrible certainty of a rotten existence deprives them of fiery courage, extinguishing this flame of the juvenile need to act. Their wings were broken before they even learned how to fly. When, according to the law of their nature, they still should dream of accomplishing the impossible, they already despair of themselves and the world. They see no exit. The futures seems blocked to them. When the old still act, they begin, against their nature, to resign themselves. They no longer hope that “their” moment will come – there is no longer any moment to call them. They are under the impression that we don’t need them, that we had departed before having proven ourselves to them. A great hate for their fathers accumulated. The sons saw themselves looted by their fathers: the hope of winning their bread, the possibility of founding a family, the liberty of movement to create work, a vital space in general and – above all – faith in a mission.
This opens an impassable gulf between the generation of the fathers and that of the post-war. The youth were wary of the traditions that remained sacred for the old. A tradition transmitted by such fathers, what value can it still have? For these youth, conservatism is claptrap. In their paternal heritage, there was no longer anything worth the pain of conserving. The patrimony of Germany before the war bore multiple traces of splendor of a bygone era that weakly reflected the past glory preventing the perception of desolate reality in all its tragedy. The entire heritage was transformed into lies and balderdash. The lot of the youth after the war was to know an existence without material security and possessions. The praise of the right for property seems to them as a sound coming from another world or as a mocking effrontery. They smell the fetid odor of bourgeois ideals, the ideals of the propertied. They do not correspond to them. They have nothing more to “take” there. The hopes and the anguishes of the propertied are not seen by them. This propertied are the residue of a world that is nothing to the youth.
In 1918, the situation of Germany was that of a colonized and proletarian country. Yet today, the old generation is too craven to openly avow this state of things. It is incapable of being hard and severe enough towards itself in the fashion of ruthlessly taking the consequences of this state. The post-war youth understands the situation and arm themselves for suffering the consequences. It is conscious of being banned, oppressed, exploited, and frustrated in its right to life. It is in this state of spirit where it believes “there is nothing left to lose except our chains.” It adopts the attitude of those who no longer have the bases, bonds, or attitudes that scared that preceding generation. Its scale of values is ultimately different. Secretly, they already despise the benefits of civilization, progress and humanism. They rightly despise them and do not recoil before the prospect of a barbarian life. Its “radicalism” truly attacks the roots. For them, the opposition is no longer a frivolous game, once, it was a distraction before committing themselves in the way of an already planned career. They want subversion. Its tendencies and intentions are violently hostile to the established order. They join extremist parties, not because of their immaturity, but to make action happen. When they say “socialism,” they do not avow from their lips their faith in the Marxist doctrine. No, it thus expresses their determination to revolt against the bourgeois world. As the economy no longer offers them openings, they no longer consider it as their destiny. For them, the fact of possessing nothing no longer characterizes a given social category. By looking closer, we see that this youth is in the middle of converting its misery into a type of Prussian virtue: “It is suitable for the fighter to be discharged of any property.”
On the inside, this youth is adopted to the trembling soil on which they are placed and to the uncertain conditions of its existence. They live with expedients. The way of life of the bourgeois epoch, where we were content in ourselves, where we calculated and predicted, is completely foreign to them. The trajectory of their lives constantly touches on the gulf. Psychologically, they took part in living dangerously without making a tragedy.
They resemble human raw material that is suitable for everything, for better or worse.
In the National Socialist movement, this youth searches for its fulfillment. That is where they thought to receive their training for the struggle against the old world. Where they vowed rebellion against Versailles and the hostility regarding the powers which, in 1918, had imposed a foreign law on Germany. The acceptance of sacrifice was required of them, made them proud, and sure of themselves. The interventions demanded total engagement and making very dangerous enterprises part of their everyday lives. Now, they are forever ready to accept death.
It was the best of the youth and, in general, the best of the Germans who rallied here. Given the quality of the human substance, the SA and the SS occupied them, independently of their orientations and the political function, with a particular rank, existing by themselves. It was this effective youth that gave its fire and splendor to the movement. It breathed its ardor into it and conferred its certainty of a near irresistible victory to it. What was attributed to the movement was in reality the merit of the youth arriving in mass. They were right such that they were the organic form of the obscure juvenile will, such that it translated it, to say so, into the political language of the current world, of the life, and the will of these youth, such that their effectiveness practically corresponded to the ideology of the youth.
They were in revolt against the old world. For them, the Third Reich was the embodiment of a new world. It interpreted the National Socialist movement as a troop on the march that would destroy the old world and build a new one. Their deep and unswerving faith clung to the flag of the movement.
This faith was so strong as to be the hardest proof. When the National Socialist movement embarked on a parliamentarian course and participated in negotiations with coalitions and the government, it was in no way shaken. Certainly, the parliament and the coalitions are institutions of the old world, in the middle of crumbling. But the confident youth didn’t doubt that it was only a ruse of war to enter into the interior in order to end the old world. Rare were those who were disturbed. Only the Stennes Revolt arose from the depths of a broken faith.
Those who presented it as a clever tactic and a ruse of war revealed, ultimately, a sordid liaison and a sly pact. The Third Reich was a lying illusion, as much as the “nationalism” and “socialism” of the movement.
There was a sign that betrayed the deceitful afterthought: the existence of the SA and the SS was already resented as bothersome and embarrassing. Bit by bit, they tried to “civilize” these men ready for battle. The interdiction on wearing a uniform came from a point named by Hitler. It habituated the wild and bellicose horde to the bourgeois style. But the responsibility of Hitler is apart from the cause. Here it relieves a great weight. It can act and protest.
The “National Socialism” of Hitler is the “German fashioned” habit of Latinity. It acts to put the vigilance of truly fooled Germans to sleep and attract them to the pitfalls made by the Latin world. The “socialism” of Hitler was a sleight of hand by the capitalist regime. The rebels, fascinated, forgot to combat it. The “Third Reich” was the makeup that the old world used to simulate the attraction of a new world. They thus fooled a certain spirit of ethnic revival, subversive tendencies, anti-capitalists, and finally the enthusiastic youth. They abused them in order put them at the service of powers against whom they swore death.
When the National Socialist movement put something at work, they ran a trick. He utilized new bottles to sell the wine turned to vinegar. He defended a worm eaten past with the language of the future. His promises are appeasements. He does not want to stimulate, he wants to calm. He does not want to construct, he wants to dupe. In secret, he has become part of the decomposition. The phosphorescent lure of the gas of putrefaction is celebrated like the dawn of a new day. Those who follow these will-o-the-wisps will be drawn into the swamps where they believed they’d find peaks.