VIRTUE = WILLINGNESS
TO SACRIFICE ONE’S LIFE
Willingness to sacrifice — die for one’s country — constituted a philosophy of life for Hitler. Dying for Germany was the supreme virtue — and essence of National Socialism. Beginning with this understanding, it is not difficult to follow the “logic” of everything that happened after.
If virtue or goodness for Hitler was the willingness to sacrifice one’s life for one’s nation, the absence of virtue (or evil) was unwillingness to sacrifice one’s life. Hitler revered, honored and glorified the German soldier who volunteered for military service and risked his life.
WHY DO GOOD MEN DIE,
WHILE THE WORST SURVIVE?
On the other hand, what about those who did not serve in the military — who sought to “shirk” their duty? Hitler became deeply disturbed — obsessed — with the idea that some Germans had avoided fighting in the First World War. Hitler pondered the question: “Why had the best (most courageous and patriotic) men died in the war, whereas the worst (most cowardly, unpatriotic) survived?” Why is virtue punished while lack of virtue is rewarded?
In hundreds of thousands of cases, Hitler explained in Mein Kampf, it was always a matter of “volunteers to the front, voluntary patrols, voluntary dispatch runners, volunteers for telephone detachments, volunteers for bridge passages, volunteers for U-boats, volunteers for airplanes, volunteers for storm battalions, etc.”
During four-and-a-half years, “again and again, again volunteers on a thousand occasions.” It was men who were filled with an “ardent love for their country,” urged by a “lofty sense of duty” who always answered the call for volunteers.
Some, however, sought to avoid military duty. These men, Hitler believed, lacked courage and a sense of duty. Hitler summarized his view in Mein Kampf:
One extreme of the population, which was constituted of the best elements, had given a typical example of its heroism and had sacrificed itself almost to a man. The other extreme, which was constituted of the worst elements of the population, had preserved itself almost intact, throughout taking advantage of absurd laws and also because the authorities failed to enforce certain articles of the military code.
The best, most heroic elements of the population had “sacrificed itself almost to a man.” Whereas the worst elements of the population — taking advantage of “absurd laws” — had “preserved itself almost intact.” The best men had died, whereas the worst had survived: This is what Hitler believed he had learned after four-and-a-half years of fighting in the First World War.
THE BEST MATERIAL IS
BEING “THINNED OUT”
Hitler addresses the issue again:
While for four-and-a-half years our best human material was being thinned to an exceptional degree on the battlefields, our worst people wonderfully succeeded in saving themselves. For each hero who made the supreme sacrifice and ascended the steps of Valhalla, there was a shirker who cunningly dodged death on the pretense of being engaged in business that was more or less useful at home.
Since the best “human material” was being “thinned out,” this kind of human material steadily “grew scarcer and scarcer.” Those soldiers who did not actually die were “maimed in the fight” or gradually had to “join the ranks of the crippled” because of the wounds they received.
The 400 thousand who died or were permanently maimed on the battlefields “could not be replaced,” Hitler explained. Their loss was “far more than merely numerical.” With their death, the scales — already “too lightly weighed at the end which represented the best human qualities” — now became “heavier on the other end with vulgar elements of infamy and cowardice.” In short, there was an “increase in the elements that constituted the worst extreme of the population.”
KILL THOSE WHO DO NOT SACRIFICE THEIR LIVES
It was not possible to do anything about the men who had already died. On the other hand, it would be possible to take measures in the future against elements of the population that had not sacrificed their lives. National Socialism would specialize in killing people who were unwilling (or unable) to sacrifice their lives. Nazism revolved around “thinning out” classes of people defined as the “worst elements.”
The sacrifice of German soldiers went without saying. This was “standard operating procedure.” This is what nations do: sacrifice young men in battle. Hitler initiated the Second World War in order to continue the sacrificial dying that had ceased when the First World War ended.
In the future, Hitler would expand the categories of people that would be required to die. Why should only soldiers be compelled to sacrifice their lives? Once in power, Hitler would require other kinds of people to forfeit their lives: defective children, mental patients, Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and finally German citizens. They too would be compelled to “die for Germany”.
People commonly focus on “aggression” or killing as the essence of political violence. However, what is the purpose of aggression? Is killing a demented form of entertainment? On the contrary, political violence contains a profound psychic and social meaning. Nations kill in order to produce sacrificial victims.
Some people sacrifice their lives voluntarily. These types of people are called “heroes.” Other kinds of people may be compelled to forfeit their lives. These people are involuntary sacrifices. Once the Nazis took power, Hitler sought to make certain that no one would be exempt. Everyone would be required to die for Germany.
Excerpts from TO DIE FOR GERMANY
HEROIC DEATH AS A
PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE
In November 1917, the youthful idealist Walter Flex wrote, “We died for Germany’s glory. Flower, Germany, as garland of death to us!” His benediction glorified all of the sacrificial dead of the war. During the Great War, propagandists and poets alike joined hands in exalting the blood sacrifice of the youth of Germany, thus transforming carnage into ethereal national revelation. Heroic death in war became a philosophy of life.
CREATES THE NATION
Eleven thousand young men lie buried in the student cemetery at Langemarck, testifying to the depravity of war. Yet through propaganda and poetry, their graves were rendered sacred shrines. They had not died; instead, their souls had passed the earthly boundaries and had been transfigured. Their blood sacrifice had guaranteed the nation’s future.
THE STREAM OF
GERMAN BLOOD IS ETERNAL
The stream of blood which for Germany is eternal — the sacrifice of German men for their Volk is eternal — therefore Germany will also be eternal.
BUT THE VOLK LIVES ON
Sacrifice for the German people was not to be feared. “Death holds no sting for us,” Himmler affirmed, because individuals die, while the Volk lives on.” Because the men of the Germanic SS were more concerned about the future of the Volk than about their individual destinies, members would “willingly and bravely seek death, wherever that is necessary.”
GERMANY IS SACRIFICE
In his last letter to his mother, written before his death on the western front in 1940, Hitler Youth officer Ernst Nielsen tried to prepare her for the loss of her son. When the news arrived, he warned, she was not to grieve; rather, she was to affirm the nobility of the cause:
If I die, mother, you must bear it, and your pride will conquer your pain, because you have the privilege of offering a sacrifice that is what we mean, when we say Germany.