Sunday, September 3, 2017

Hitler in Freiburg

We are in the midst of our federal election campaign, but Red Baron has never experienced a more boring one. Angela Merkel (Christian Democrat with a projected 38% of the vote) is hovering as the mother of Western democracy over the lowlands of German party politics, whereas Martin Schulz (Social Democrat at a meager 24%) is struggling like the famous frog in liquid cream hoping that part of it may eventually transform into butter to give him at least some ground.

In light of such boredom, the Landeszentrale für politische Bildung (lpd, State central for political education) scheduled a panel discussion at the university's Audimax (main auditorium).

General elections 1932 and 2017: Hitler in Freiburg 85 years ago
People had to pay an entrance fee at campaign rallies in the Weimar Republic.
Visitors came from Switzerland and neighboring Alsace to listen to Hitler.
Red Baron was early at the Audimax and got a seat near the stage, but only in row four. The other seats in front were reserved for dignitaries, including members of the local soccer teams Sportclub Freiburg (SCF) and the Freiburger Fußballclub (FFC). I got a free ticket issued for counting purposes at the entrance since seating more than 800 persons at the Audimax is illegal. Nevertheless, as the starting time approached, the auditorium became overcrowded.

During the filling and waiting phase, we were entertained by video material. A documentary about Hitler's arrival and stay at Freiburg on July 29, 1932, was the "top seller." Here are some frames.

Most impressive. In July 1932, Hitler campaigned using an airplane,
allowing him to give four speeches in four distant
cities in one day. At Freiburg, he arrived one hour late.

Removing his earplugs after arrival at Freiburg (Cabins were not pressurized in 1932).

Saluting children and flowers as usual.

Hitler liked powerful and fast cars.
Rumors have it that the autobahn between Prussia and Bavaria was built
with priority so that he could quickly move between Berlin, the German capital,
and the Hauptstadt der Bewegung (Capital of the Movement), Munich.

As Hitler passed, young female voters were screaming
 like today's teenage girls idolizing Justin Bieber.

Looking determined and surrounded by his Brownshirts
he is marching to the FFC's Mösle stadium.

Hitler is giving his third and same speech during the day.

Already in 1932, there was fake news about the number of attendees:
30,000, according to the Freiburger Sport Club,
50,000, as estimated by the Freiburg newspapers,
70,000, as claimed by Nazi propaganda.

Hitler, with a flying cap, ready to head for Radolfzell on Lake Constance
to attend his fourth and last rally of the day.

Können diese Augen lügen? (Would I lie to you?). Yes, you did.

Super election year 1932. Rektor Schiewer during his introduction
in front of a poster of the presidential election of April 10.
The evening was opened by the host, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans-Jochen Schiewer, Rektor (head) of Freiburg's university. The purport of his introductory talk was: Although there have been dark times in the past, the motto of Freiburg's university is equality and freedom of speech and research.

In front of a historical photo
 showing Nazi Mayor Franz Kerber and Gauleiter (governor) Robert Wagner
here are the panel members from left to right:
Dr. Thomas Schnabel, Leiter Haus der Geschichte Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart
Dr. Dieter Salomon, Oberbürgermeister der Stadt Freiburg
Dr. Michael Wehner, Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Baden-Württemberg,
Außenstelle Freiburg leading the discussion
Christian Streich, Trainer, Sport-Club Freiburg
Dr. Heinrich Schwendemann, Historisches Seminar
der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
The panel discussion proper started with two noteworthy statements by Freiburg's mayor, Dr. Dieter Salomon: Jeder Mensch hat seinen Wert (Every human being is valuable) and Populismus ist geschichtsvergessen (Populism ignores history).

According to Dr. Thomas Schnabel, director of the House of History in Stuttgart, a comparison between 1932 and 2017 is nearly ridiculous. In 1932 Germany suffered from the world economic depression and a high unemployment rate of 18% (today 5,7%). This meant more welfare recipients and increased social spending compensated by reducing salaries in the public sector. Streets were dominated by politically motivated brawls and murder. This was an excellent climate for populism. Most important, however, was that more than 50% of the voters, be it right or left, rejected the Weimar Republic, while today, more than 85% fully support the democratic system of our Federal Republic.

Hitler and the National Socialists had their breakthrough in 1930 with 18.3% of the votes, reached their maximum with 37.3% in the July 1932 poll, and declined to 33.1% in the November 1932 elections due to a noticeable improvement in Germany's economic situation. Schnabel insisted that Hitler's rise to power on January 31, 1933, was not imperative. The elites helped him and not the working class.

Schnabel is right, for the chancellor-makers and members of Hitler's initial government were industry (Alfred Hugenberg), military (Werner von Blomberg), and aristocracy (Franz von Papen), where the latter commented: In zwei Monaten haben wir Hitler in die Ecke gedrückt, dass er quietscht (Within two month we shall have pushed Hitler into a corner so he will squeak). All underestimated Hitler's will to power. Within only eight months, the Nazi chancellor had brought Germany into line.

Why were two of Freiburg's soccer teams invited and Christian Streich, SCF coach, sitting on the panel? As Dr. Heinrich Schwendemann, Historical Seminar of the university explained: At the beginning of the 20th century, soccer was an integrating factor when Catholics, Protestants, and Jews placed the team spirit above religious and ideological differences. The Mösle Stadium, home of the FFC, was sponsored by Jews. So it is one of history's ironies that Hitler gave his speech in a "Jewish" stadium.

The integrating power of soccer today involves Muslim and native African rather than Jewish players. This multicultural mix sometimes leads to racist outbursts during matches in the Bundesliga (Federal soccer league). Contrary to other coaches, Christian Streich has frequently spoken out against racist remarks and hate speech and, in particular, has recently taken on the populistic AfD (Alternative for Germany). To great applause, he explained that he had agreed to sit on the panel because I am surrounded by educated people who are occupied the whole day with history and politics. In contrast, I constantly reflect on how to prevent goals against my team.

Later in the discussion, Dr. Salomon distinguished between a political movement and a political party. The Greens started in 1980 as a movement, with Joschka Fischer being their charismatic leader. Together with the Free Democrats and the Linke (left socialists), the Greens now belong to the spectrum of the smaller established parties in Germany, each with the prospect of around 10% of the votes. The populistic AfD is still in the movement stage, just missing the one and only charismatic leader. They may get 12% of the votes in the upcoming general election.

Dr. Salomon said: Concerning Germany's past, present generations are not guilty, but we must watch that such an inhuman period will never reoccur. Concerning our uneasy relationship with our nationality, Dr. Schnabel added: Nationalism, yes, but never against others inside or outside Germany.

Except for some interesting historical details and a few bon mots, the panel discussion did not knock my socks off. Contrary to my habit, I - this time being afraid of lengthy comments by people from the auditorium and verbose answers by the panel members - left the Audimax with most of the audience before the general discussion started.

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