What is a good book on tribal psychology

Political advice against Hitler Germany

On the German new edition of Sebastian Haffner's "Germany: Jekyll & Hyde"

By Alexandra Pontzen

Discussed books / references

"1939 - Germany viewed from the inside" - is the fitting subtitle of the German translation of Sebastian Haffner's first work, published by Secker and Warburg in London in 1940, with which he began his career as a political journalist. Translated from English by Kurt Baudisch - the German original manuscript is considered lost - the work was first published in German in 1996, only slightly and sensibly abbreviated, and has now been completed with these abbreviations, but otherwise available unchanged on the German book market.

The book by the author, who emigrated to England in 1938, claims to have been written very quickly ("time is of the essence"). According to the English publisher in a preliminary remark, it was completed in April 1940 and, because of its "current national importance", was hastily printed without waiting for the final correction by the author.

The publisher's assessment was entirely in the spirit of Haffner, because he wants nothing less, and says this several times, than exerting direct influence on the British decision-makers with his statements, both with regard to their war propaganda and the war aims against Germany. With this in mind, he creates his picture of Germany's political soul landscape under Nazi rule. Haffner's German interior view leads to the realization that the Prussian-German nation-state has been a mistake and that Germany, because of its lack of a sense of reality and the will for freedom, is not a great power and not or only partially gifted to resist tyranny and democracy. Accordingly, in the last three chapters all the energy and persuasiveness of the author is directed towards preventing England - we are writing in the spring of 1940, Dunkirk and the French defeat is imminent - from a compromise peace with Nazi Germany. The war, argues Haffner, must be fought to the end, until Hitler and the Nazi regime are completely eliminated, politically, morally and physically, only then will the German people be cured of National Socialism and the world will be safe from Germany.

According to Haffner, the winners should help the country achieve a new state constitution that is in keeping with it: After the Nazi crimes have been punished, the state restructuring must be carried out from the historical German states. This is where the abbreviations of the German first publication mentioned above come into play, brief historically grounded, sometimes more folk and tribal psychological characterizations of, according to Haffner's count, a total of eight countries, including Prussia and Austria, the latter of course understood as completely independent. Prussia, which he doesn’t give a good deal of in politicis, is said to include only the provinces of Brandenburg, Pomerania, East Prussia and Silesia in addition to Berlin and the surrounding area; but as the esthete he is, the author cannot avoid at least granting him the "development of his own style" for the half century between the Congress of Vienna and Königgrätz.

Haffner will pick up on this point later when he assessed Prussia, which was dissolved by the victorious powers in 1947, much more positively than at the beginning of the war. His hometown Berlin, the Berlin of the twenties, is already an exception to him, not Prussian and not even German, but rather "the quintessence of an international metropolis". But that's not all: unlike the destructive Prussia, "Berlin has reason, happiness and utility to offer. The future Prussia must be baptized Berlin."

Occasional exaggerations of the latter kind do not diminish the seriousness of the book, which impresses with its clairvoyance, for example with regard to the nature of National Socialism and Hitler's affinity for suicide, as well as through its astute political analyzes, for example about the opposition and the political parties of the Weimar period. In addition, thanks to the intelligence and stylistic versatility of its author, it is a real pleasure to read, which is all the more astonishing since, according to information from the first German publisher Uwe Soukup, it is a reverse translation from English.

Sebastian Haffner: Germany: Jekyll & Hyde 1939 - Germany viewed from the inside. First unabridged German edition.
Translated from English by Kurt Baudisch.
Edition Book Guild, Frankfurt a. M. 2008.
352 pages, 19.90 EUR.
ISBN-13: 9783940111456

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