Sunday, September 3, 2017

Hitler at Freiburg

We are in the midst of our federal election campaign but Red Baron never experienced a more boring one. Angela Merkel (Christian Democrat at 38% intentions to 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 the light of such a 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 at Freiburg 85 years ago
Unbelievable:
At campaign rallies in the Weimar Republic people had to pay an entrance fee.
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 being reserved for dignitaries including members of the local soccer teams Sportclub Freiburg (SCF) and the Freiburger Fußballclub (FFC). At the entrance I got a free ticket issued for counting purposes since sitting of more than 800 persons at the Audimax is illegal. Nevertheless, as the starting time approached the auditorium became overcrowded.

©lpb
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 at four distant cities
 in one day. At Freiburg he arrived late.

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

Salutary 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 teenies idolizing Justin Bieber.

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

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

Already in 1932 there were 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 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 (dean) 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 the 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 resulting high unemployment rate of 18% (today 5,7%). This meant more welfare recipients and increased social spending that was compensated by a reduction of 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% at 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 January 31, 1933 rise to power was not imperative. The elites helped him to power 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 screech). All underestimated Hitler's will to power. Within only eight months the Nazi chancellor had brought Germany into line.

Why there were two of Freiburg's soccer teams invited and Christian Streich, coach of the SCF, was sitting on the panel? As Dr. Heinrich Schwendemann, Historical Seminar of the university, explained: In 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 rather implies Muslim and native African than Jewish players. This multicultural mix sometimes leads to racist manifestations during matches of the Bundesliga (Federal soccer league). Christian Streich, contrary to other coaches, frequently had spoken out against racist remarks and hate speech and in particular had taken on the populistic AfD (Alternative for Germany) recently. Under great applause he explained that he had accepted to sit on the panel because here I am surrounded by educated people who are occupied the whole day with history and politics whereas I constantly reflect on how to prevent goals against my team.

Later in the discussion Dr. Salomon made the distinction between a political movement and a political party. The Greens started out in 1980 as a movement with Joschka Fischer being their charismatic leader. Now, together with the Free Democrats and the Linke (left socialists), the Greens belong to the spectrum of the smaller established parties in Germany with intentions to vote around 10% each. The populistic AfD is still in the stage of a movement but missing a one and only charismatic leader. They will possibly get 12% of the votes in the upcoming general election.

Dr. Salomon said: With respect to Germany's past, present generations are not guilty but we have the duty to watch that such an inhuman period will never reoccur. With respect to our uneasy relationship with our nationality Dr. Schnabel added: Nationalism yes, but never against others both inside and outside Germany.

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

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