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Author Topic: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?  (Read 1627 times)

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Offline NiceTexasGuyTopic starter

Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« on: July 19, 2013, 10:05:46 PM »
Yep, Nazis are evil, we got that part.  Civil rights repressed.  Millions suffered.  Millions murdered.  Wars started.  They were almost as bad as the commies.

But, if you've ever asked that all important question "how could the German people let it happen?" I have a question (two questions, actually) for you: 

If you were around back then, and in Germany, what would you have done, and at what point would you have done it?

Thank you in advance for your input.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2013, 10:10:50 PM by NiceTexasGuy »

Offline Neysha

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2013, 10:27:31 PM »
With foreknowledge of what was about to happen or are we kind of superimposing our personality/character to existing in that time hypothetically?

Offline NiceTexasGuyTopic starter

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2013, 10:30:41 PM »
With foreknowledge of what was about to happen or are we kind of superimposing our personality/character to existing in that time hypothetically?

Uh, yeah, #2 I think.  No time machines and crystal balls ... just if you were a regular person back then, just like all the other German people who "let it happen." 
« Last Edit: July 19, 2013, 10:31:49 PM by NiceTexasGuy »

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Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2013, 10:33:25 PM »
Place yourself in the 1920-1930 era in Germany experiencing the politics and economy of the time as well as the results of WWI and the resulting treaties which left much of Germany in a financially depressed condition.

Offline NiceTexasGuyTopic starter

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2013, 10:34:24 PM »

Offline Neysha

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2013, 10:38:44 PM »
I probably wouldn't of done anything. Probably a supporter of the DNVP... possibly the Social Democrats. They both are very antagonistic to those scary German communists which is a plus to my 1920's sensibilities. The Germans Peoples Party is probably the most palatable to me, but they seemed like an extremely small party later on. So unless I was fairly passionate about them, I'd probably vote for a party with greater political clout.

But then again with a multiparty parliamentary system, maybe I would stick with the German Peoples Party, help them not lose thirty seats or something in the 1932 election. :p
« Last Edit: July 19, 2013, 10:42:23 PM by Neysha »

Offline Oniya

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Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2013, 10:53:31 PM »
Considering my current set of abilities (we'll ignore my ethnic background for the moment), I am personally humbled when I read/hear the stories of Germans who did take action during those years.  You hear about the people like von Stauffenberg, Schindler, and Gustav Schroeder.  Not many people have heard of Ilse Stanley, but she was a German Jew who personally helped over 400 people get out of concentration camps, or Otto Hahn, a chemistry professor who assisted Jewish scientists in avoiding deportation to the camps.  Some of these people didn't come to light until decades after the war - like Albert Battel, who prevented SS commandos from 'resettling' the inhabitants of Przemyśl in an extermination camp.

To assume that the German people 'let it happen' is indeed a disservice to these and many other individuals.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2013, 10:56:26 PM »
Most likely I'd be like my friend's parents in Germany did.. support things till the Nazi's came along and slapped us in Penal units to do work because we were politically opposed to them and couldn't be allowed to simply leave. Both he and his father were engineers, so they got slapped into a work group and told to do what the Nazi's said or their families would be shot.

Considering my current set of abilities (we'll ignore my ethnic background for the moment), I am personally humbled when I read/hear the stories of Germans who did take action during those years.  You hear about the people like von Stauffenberg, Schindler, and Gustav Schroeder.  Not many people have heard of Ilse Stanley, but she was a German Jew who personally helped over 400 people get out of concentration camps, or Otto Hahn, a chemistry professor who assisted Jewish scientists in avoiding deportation to the camps.  Some of these people didn't come to light until decades after the war - like Albert Battel, who prevented SS commandos from 'resettling' the inhabitants of Przemyśl in an extermination camp.

To assume that the German people 'let it happen' is indeed a disservice to these and many other individuals.

There are a LOT of stories of folks that did the right thing that never came to light. Few of them stepped forward after (some couldn't.. because well. they were 'vanished' for resisting the Nazis.)

Offline Oniya

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Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2013, 11:06:01 PM »
There are a LOT of stories of folks that did the right thing that never came to light. Few of them stepped forward after (some couldn't.. because well. they were 'vanished' for resisting the Nazis.)

Precisely my point. ;)

Now, with a family background of about 5/8s Polish, and somewhere around a quarter Russian, and about as far from Aryan standard as you can get (not to mention female - since we're talking the 20s and 30s), I don't think they'd be inviting me to any engineering projects.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2013, 11:11:00 PM »
Precisely my point. ;)

Now, with a family background of about 5/8s Polish, and somewhere around a quarter Russian, and about as far from Aryan standard as you can get (not to mention female - since we're talking the 20s and 30s), I don't think they'd be inviting me to any engineering projects.

The Nazis were very pragmatic Oniya.. if you had skills they needed, they were  perfectly willing to hold you and yours hostage till they didn't need you. Then it was off to the camps if you became irrelevant.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2013, 12:23:33 AM »
Yeah, took that into account.  The best I would have been tapped for is sewing uniforms.

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Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2013, 12:46:28 AM »
Probably been shipped off to a penal camp or otherwise disappeared because I couldn't keep my damn mouth shut and have extremely strong anti-authoritarian tendencies. (My F-scale score was 1.99..., and would have been lower if there weren't some mostly-innocuous or agreeable statements that took a sharp turn into left field with one specific clause.)

This is relevant and beautifully-written, and one of the major moral lessons I keep coming back to when it comes to making tough decisions.

EDIT:
The point of the original question is what would you have done, and at what point would you have done it?

In light of this, a more specific answer: Spoken out loudly and angrily, joining with whatever groups I could to make my voice heard, the moment I saw a serious and potentially-dangerous consolidation of power by the government. Much like I have done in the past, and continue to do in the face of the incredibly toxic "Harper Government". So yeah, been one of the first rounded up and executed, with unfortunately little effect on what happened.

I fully admit that the purges that happened probably would make me hesitate, and I honestly don't know if I'd have the courage of my convictions at that point - I doubt it, and that is disappointing - but I'd likely be speaking out before purges started, so that doesn't save me. Assuming I made it past the first round, I'd likely get caught trying to get the hell out, because at that point the writing is on the wall and more of the sort of rabble-rousing I tend toward can be done from outside the country and alive than inside and dead. This is, of course, assuming me - someone with the education level, cultural and historical background, and social mores that were common in 1920s-30s Germany would not be recognizably me.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2013, 12:59:38 AM by Ephiral »

Offline NiceTexasGuyTopic starter

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2013, 12:48:19 AM »
Okay, I certainly don't mean to downplay the contributions and the bravery of people who took risks to oppose the government or at least try to mitigate the damage, but I would also point out that many of these people were a part of the "let it happen" population until they had a change of heart somewhere along the way. 

Schindler was part of the (sorry, I forget the name, the German espionage agency) and facilitated the German invasion of Czechslovakia, then used slave labor to work in his factory.  So, for a number of years, he not only let it happen, he helped make it happen. 

Von Stauffenberg invaded Poland and France.  He, too, helped make it happen.

The point of the original question is what would you have done, and at what point would you have done it?

To be honest, I would have to answer the question with "I don't know".  I like to think I would have been one of those heroic types who knew all along what was happening and would have fought to stop it.  However, I'm a little familiar with the deplorable conditions in Germany following the First World War.  I might not have been so far-sighted and heroic after all.  Might I have been one of the first to shout Hallelujah when Hitler came to power?  I just keep hearing people ask -- how did they let it happen?  And I wonder about the people asking the question -- what would you have done differently?  And what might they - or we - be "allowing to happen" today that will confound future historians and history buffs and ordinary clueless people alike and make them ask the same question.


Offline Beorning

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2013, 04:21:33 AM »
Von Stauffenberg invaded Poland and France.  He, too, helped make it happen.

Yup. I may be mistaken, but - from what I've read - von Stauffenberg wasn't *morally* against Nazism. He was a nationalist and he willingly supported Hitler... until Germany started losing the war. It was then that von Stauffenberg decided that it'd be best to remove Hitler from power and ask the Allies for peace.

I'm not saying that what the man did wasn't brave or heroic, but - from what I've read - he just doesn't strike me as a man who looked at Nazism and said: "This is evil, I will oppose it". He was more like "This war is turning out pointless, let's change the government and sue for peace"

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Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2013, 06:36:04 AM »
It depends a lot on one's age at the time (in 1933) and what kind of options you had of emigrating, cutting your roots within Germany and rebuilding a home in exile. I think it was obvious to very many people at the time, even in '32, that German society, economy and politics were in a tailspin, and many people would have sensed that the disaster had some roots in the twenties, long before the economy bombed. But who or what they were blaming would have differed a lot as well. The Nazis blamed the Jews and Communists, and the treaty of Versailles, some blamed "modern decadence and laziness", most of us take a different approach...I reckon one's age would have been important to how easy you would have found it to see and act on what was happening. Supposing I'd been born in 1900 or shortly after, and had been roughly like the "me" I am for now, I believe I would have realized fairly early that the Nazis were a rotten bunch and could not be trusted. But would that have translated into openly defying them, and perhaps getting caught, beaten up and hanged, or going into exile? I really don't know, that's much less certain.

Many people simply didn't have the option of emigrating, it wasn't an easy decision in a world where joblessness and poverty were rampant, where their kids might not be able to get educated in their native language, where you'd likely have to sell your furniture, books and much of your clothes for subpar prices prior to moving out, or even destroy some of your books because they were verboten or suspect - and where one's school diplomas might turn out relatively worthless in a new country. Not to mention that you might lose touch with most of your extended family, even your parents. Letter traffic back and forth to the Reich was not left uncensored of course, and some of them might turn against you on their own accord.

I think people like Sophie and Hans Scholl or the Stauffenberg group deserve great respect, even if they had been affiliated with the Nazi party at some point earlier on. Joining the party was as unavoidable, to many people, as paying your student fees or joining the student union if you attend a university today, in many cases it was only marginally an ideological choice and it could be coerced quite a bit.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2013, 06:43:14 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline The Dark Raven

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #16 on: July 20, 2013, 10:39:13 AM »
Okay, I certainly don't mean to downplay the contributions and the bravery of people who took risks to oppose the government or at least try to mitigate the damage, but I would also point out that many of these people were a part of the "let it happen" population until they had a change of heart somewhere along the way. 

Schindler was part of the (sorry, I forget the name, the German espionage agency) and facilitated the German invasion of Czechslovakia, then used slave labor to work in his factory.  So, for a number of years, he not only let it happen, he helped make it happen. 

Von Stauffenberg invaded Poland and France.  He, too, helped make it happen.

The point of the original question is what would you have done, and at what point would you have done it?

To be honest, I would have to answer the question with "I don't know".  I like to think I would have been one of those heroic types who knew all along what was happening and would have fought to stop it.  However, I'm a little familiar with the deplorable conditions in Germany following the First World War.  I might not have been so far-sighted and heroic after all.  Might I have been one of the first to shout Hallelujah when Hitler came to power?  I just keep hearing people ask -- how did they let it happen?  And I wonder about the people asking the question -- what would you have done differently?  And what might they - or we - be "allowing to happen" today that will confound future historians and history buffs and ordinary clueless people alike and make them ask the same question.

How did they let it happen?

Well, for starters they let it happen because the rest of the world crapped on them during and after WWI.  Their country was a shambles physically, mentally and economically.  They had nothing left.  They were starving.  The Great Depression (as we know it in the US) hit them first in the world or nearly because they were already rock bottom.  They had no hope of ever being anything that they had enjoyed before the Great War.  It was over for Germany.

Then this little man from nowhere came into the picture and literally promised them the world, singing the praises of the idealized German culture and the great old Saxon and Germanic roots that they heard of in stories as a kid.  A Golden Age.  He said he'd make that happen, if they only made him Chancellor.  He didn't say how, just to vote for him, because he would save them.  So they did.  Hitler was the Golden Boy who surrounded himself with like minded men who would help him restore Germany to glory.

The Final Solution wasn't thought of til later. 

The people didn't know he was just a hair insane.

He was going to save them and bring Germany back to a power to be reckoned with, and he had a shit list waiting to prove all those Allied countries wrong about WWI.  He was a Nationalist in the purest sense of the word and an imperialist.

People now, with all the hindsight we have, forget he did start with good intentions, however twisted his methods were.  Even now it is illegal for the German people to listen to Hitler's speeches because he was so charismatic he drew everyone in.

With that said, if I were in their place, I probably would have been sucked in too.  From what I've heard from German exchange students that come here and get to listen to those speeches for the first time, even knowing what he did, they have to tear themselves away from his promises.  And that is the scariest thing of all to me.  The man still holds power today, even though he has been dead since 1945.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #17 on: July 20, 2013, 10:51:34 AM »
I notice that you took two of the most famous examples from my post, and glossed over the others (Gustav Schroeder, by the way, was the captain of a refugee ship that did everything in his power to try to get some country to accept the mostly-Jewish passengers emigrating from Germany.)

My point is that history doesn't give a damn about der Man in der Strasse, l'homme d'avenue, or the man in the street.  History cares about the big picture.  In 60 years, when people are looking back on today at the same distance that we are from Nazi Germany, most of us reading here will be happy little lumps of clay, gone on to whatever you believe happens to lumps of clay.  Some of the youngest members of the forum might still be around, but that's about it.  History will probably remember folks on the level of the Koch Brothers.  History might remember people on the order of Craig Jelinek (CEO of Costco - actually pays his workers a living wage, with benefits, and doesn't hoard all the profits to himself.)  History will gloss over the rest of us, the way that it has Ilse Stanley and Otto Hahn.

Does that mean that we shouldn't do anything?  No.  There's a story I read once - this particular version is attributed to the Starfish Charity:

Quote
An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach. One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer. As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing them into the ocean.
"Young lady," he asked, "Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"
"The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die."
"But young lady, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference."
The young woman listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves,
saying, "It made a difference for that one."
The old man looked at the young woman inquisitively and thought about what she had done. Inspired, he joined her in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.

Offline RubySlippers

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #18 on: July 20, 2013, 11:01:10 AM »
I hate to point out if it wasn't for Hitler and the Nazi Regime we would not be a major power now and have left the war the most powerful industrial nation on Earth, Japan would have taken Asia (without allies they would never have risked war with the USA it would be a one front war) and Germany would not be the economic power it is now.

As to the question I would comply and not cause issues and try to move to a rural area to avoid bombing and the like I'm no heroine, why make waves?

Offline Galanthor

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #19 on: July 20, 2013, 11:57:36 AM »
I only briefly looked over that, but as a German i must say that i am really surprised how much empathy and understanding for the situation i saw here...

thank you guys, that kind of cracked me up.

Also Ruby is only partially right in that Hitler did help german economy, especially since the war ended in germany loosing a lot of working machinary (which led to modernisation later on) and general economic power (I even know a rather big city near me that was bombed to the ground) especially in the place that'd become the ddr (that half of germany still hasn't fully recovered). Also lots of german companys disappeared thanks to their cooperation with Hitler. That said during Hitler's reign the economy did boom, but that was more because the allied chose to go a little softer on germany (especially considering reparations).

Offline NiceTexasGuyTopic starter

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #20 on: July 20, 2013, 11:59:16 AM »
I notice that you took two of the most famous examples from my post, and glossed over the others

You make it sound like I'm being accused of some wrongdoing.  My intent was not to gloss over anyone or anything, but to point out that an entire nation is accused by history as being complacent regarding all this evil wrongdoing, and even those being held up as heroes were as much a part of the problem as anyone, if not more so. 

I'll confess I didn't know the name Gustav Schroeder off the top of my head (though I was already familiar with the ship of the damned, just didn't remember the captain's name) ... maybe I'd have probably recognized it if Spielberg made a movie about it.

I think my point in asking the question was to think about at what point are people supposed to actually stand up and do something.  I am really really really hesitant to use present day examples because I know the kind of absurd rhetoric that will lead to - but let's say some unnamed president of the USA is subverting the Constitution, destroying the environment, destroying the economy, destroying the country, etc .. (for some it could be Bush, for others it could be Obama - let's just call him John Doe) so there's all this talk ... people are really really upset, but so far that's what it is, talk.  Celebrities threaten to leave the country if thus-and-such happens, but when it happens, none of them do.  States threaten to secede, but none of them did. 

I was just wondering at what point does something get bad enough for someone to do something other than talk.  AND I'M NOT TRYING TO START A REPUBLICAN VS. DEMOCRAT DEBATE HERE.  I was just thinking about Nazi Germany and AT WHAT POINT do we think people should have done something other than sit there and be compliant.

Thus far it looks like we have a couple of people who might have ended up in concentration camps (or simply disappeared in the night) while a few others (maybe me among them) would try to keep their mouths shut and not draw attention to themselves.  I'm wondering if anyone will say "on this date, at this time, because of this incident, I would have grabbed a pitchfork and marched on Berlin, whether anyone came with me or not."


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Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #21 on: July 20, 2013, 12:05:05 PM »
If I were a 1920's & 30's German version of myself, that is, a fairly nonviolent person of intellectual and artistic bent with leftist views coming from a middle class family and belonging to an immigrant ethnic group, my most probable counterpart in that time is a Roma artist and musician. The prognosis for such an individual in that age of rising authoritarianism and nationalism isn't super-awesome. The chances are good that I flirt with membership in a communist group early on, but as things progress and I find myself unsuited to street violence and suspicious of left radicalism as I am of its rightist counterpart, I probably try to just bury myself in my work and my art. Maybe, as the Third Reich actually begins to rise, I try to get out of Germany and even out of Europe, in which case I probably wind up in North America somewhere. If I fail to get out I probably wind up in a concentration camp, and either survive or die as luck would have it.

Offline NiceTexasGuyTopic starter

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #22 on: July 20, 2013, 12:09:40 PM »
Maybe, as the Third Reich actually begins to rise, I try to get out of Germany and even out of Europe, in which case I probably wind up in North America somewhere.

Just don't wait too long ... otherwise you might end up stuck in Casablanca unable to obtain an exit visa.  8-)

Offline Beorning

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #23 on: July 20, 2013, 12:34:26 PM »
You make it sound like I'm being accused of some wrongdoing.  My intent was not to gloss over anyone or anything, but to point out that an entire nation is accused by history as being complacent regarding all this evil wrongdoing, and even those being held up as heroes were as much a part of the problem as anyone, if not more so. 

Well, let's not make sweeping generalizations here. The Scholls weren't "as much part of the problem as anyone, if not more so".

Quote
I was just thinking about Nazi Germany and AT WHAT POINT do we think people should have done something other than sit there and be compliant.

Thus far it looks like we have a couple of people who might have ended up in concentration camps (or simply disappeared in the night) while a few others (maybe me among them) would try to keep their mouths shut and not draw attention to themselves.  I'm wondering if anyone will say "on this date, at this time, because of this incident, I would have grabbed a pitchfork and marched on Berlin, whether anyone came with me or not."

I'm not sure if grabbing a pitchfork literally would be the best idea...

The question: what would you want German people to do in this situation? What specifically do you believe they could've done?

Offline NiceTexasGuyTopic starter

Re: Germany - 1920's & 30's -- What would you have done ... ?
« Reply #24 on: July 20, 2013, 12:47:12 PM »
Well, let's not make sweeping generalizations here. The Scholls weren't "as much part of the problem as anyone, if not more so".

The question: what would you want German people to do in this situation? What specifically do you believe they could've done?

Okay, even some of those being held up as heroes ... my bad.

I would point out, though, that a more sweeping generalization is being made by the ones asking "how could the German people let this happen?" -- It's a question I've heard a lot of people ask, and that's the point of this thread. 

What would I want the German people to do, and what do I believe they could've done?  I don't know.  In case I wasn't clear, I'm not the one accusing them of anything.  Instead, I'm trying to understand exactly what you asked - what should they have done (and when), and what could they have accomplished by doing it?