But Germany was not backward. As the 20th century began,
it seemed -- and in many ways really was -- the most
advanced of all nations, with a dazzling cultural
heritage and a formidable industrial economy. The Reich
created by Otto von Bismarck in 1871 appeared to
have a rule of law as well as a democratic parliament.
EVEN Geoffrey Wheatcroft, a well-known
Zionist sympathiser who is no doubt wary of
criticising their darling Richard Evans,
comments on the professor's "quirky" approach to
the German language.
This "expert witness" appeared
to have little or no knowledge of vernacular
German, as I established during
cross-examination of him in the Lipstadt Trial.
(See particularly Day
21 -- search the trancript for "daran
Among the quirks of this
race-obsessed academic was to translate the
well-known Nazi newspaper Völkischer
Beobachter as Racial Observer. We had this
out in the courtroom too when we examined the
word Volksschädlinge applied to
professional criminals (Day
insisted that the proper primary translation of
Volk is race (in fact it is people,
nation) I pointed out that the VW, the
people's car that Hitler and Ferdinand
Porsche created, would then be called the
Racial Car. Evans would probably call it the
Race Car, generating even more confusion all
MR IRVING: "It is the other
half of the word I am looking at, 'Volks-'.
Would you call a Volkswagen a race car, racial
car? A Volkskuche is a racial kitchen? A
Volksseele is a racial soul?
Prof Evans: "A
Volkswagen is a post 1945 term, even though the
car was not."
Volkswagen "a postwar term?" What about the
huge Volkswagen- Werke at Fallersleben which
produced the flying bombs? (Now Wolfsburg, and
guess whom Wolf was named after!) So much
for Lipstadt's history expert!
Evans is one of those
academics whose research is the product of
reading other people's books. As Wheatcroft
slyly puts it, he has "read very widely."
J. Evans, the author of "The Coming of the Third
MY correspondent who drew my attention to
this review suggested incidentally that instead
of his established nickname of "Skunky" (earned
for his habit since childhood of squirting bile
over all those around and particularly above
him) Evans should now be called "Squinty".
That would really be to
descend to his own level however: and as Lord
Mountbatten once said, "Never get into a
pissing match with a skunk."
By 1918 Germany had begun one war and lost it; by 1933
[Adolf] Hitler had come to power; by 1945,
having devastated Europe and carried out unimagined acts
of wickedness, Germany was mired in utter moral as well
as physical desolation. How could it have happened?
This is the question Richard
J. Evans addresses in "The Coming of the Third
Reich," the first part of a planned three-volume
history of the National Socialist regime. A professor at
Cambridge University, Mr. Evans is, with Michael
Burleigh and Sir Ian
Kershaw, one of the British historians who have
become eminent narrators of
this terrible story, and he enjoyed a wider fame as an
expert, and devastating, witness in a
libel action when the historian David Irving
sued an American scholar who had accused him of Holocaust
Rather than delving into mistier origins, Mr. Evans
starts by showing that the Bismarckian Reich's semblance
of representative government was largely illusory. Even
so, he insists that Hitler's rise had not "been
pre-programmed by the previous course of German history,"
and was in no sense inevitable.
Defeat in the Great War was made worse when so many
Germans failed to recognize that they had in fact lost:
Friedrich Ebert, the Social Democrat leader, told
the returning army in 1918, "No enemy has overcome you!"
Although the new Weimar Republic survived the crazy
inflation of 1923 (from January, when there were 17,000
marks to a dollar, to December, when it was notionally
4,200 billion), many Germans never accepted the
Prominent among those who rejected it were the parties
of the radical right. One such, still very small in the
early 1920's, was the German Workers' Party, whose leader
had picked up a ragbag of noxious notions abroad at the
time: war as "biological necessity," ferocious
anti-Semitism and an obsession with "racial hygiene" and
the "unfit." All these were seeds that would bear hideous
Even then, with all of Hitler's hypnotic demagoguery,
the Nazis could still win no more than 2.6 percent of the
vote in the May 1928 election. It took the Depression to
knock the republic flat. As unemployment quadrupled,
political violence spiraled out of control -- 105 people
were killed in Prussia during the election months of June
and July 1932 -- while the Communists did everything they
could to undermine democracy.
Finally came the grotesque miscalculation of the
conservative politicians who brought Hitler to power in
January 1933 thinking that they had hired him in order to
discredit him. No hindsight was needed to see the
stupidity of this: the French ambassador to Berlin,
André François-Poncet, dryly said at
the time that those politicians thought they were clever,
"ridding themselves of the wolf by introducing him into
Although Mr. Evans has read very
widely, he sometimes relies too much on particular
sources, like the diaries (remarkable as they are) of
Victor Klemperer. Writing in a self-confident
tone, Mr. Evans has a few quirks, like translating every
turn of phrase, even those in common currency.
There may be something to be said for rendering
Führer as "leader," but the baffling "struggle for
culture" turns out to refer not to some worthy artistic
aspirations but to what is well-known in English as well
as German as the Kulturkampf, Bismarck's campaign
against the Roman Catholic Church. And to translate the
names of newspapers -- Frankfurt News for Frankfurter
Zeitung, Berlin Daily News-Sheet for Berliner
Tageblatt, Racial Observer for Völkischer
Beobachter -- is just silly. At one point Mr. Evans
cites a contemporary article from this newspaper. A
German historian might well do the same, but he would
call it The New York Times, not Die Neuyorker
"Is it wrong to begin with Bismarck?" Mr. Evans asks,
and by the end of his story it looks all too right. There
is a lingering fashion to admire Bismarck for his
political genius and his comparative restraint, and of
course he would have despised Hitler. And yet Bismarck
does bear a heavy burden for having taught Germany the
use of war as a cynical instrument of policy.
By waging his domestic wars against socialism and the
Catholic Church (to which two of five citizens in his
Reich belonged), he alienated the industrial working
class and their Social Democratic party from the state,
while preventing the emergence of a constitutional
conservative party that could have embraced Protestants
and Catholics. As it was, the Catholic Center party was
born in narrow sectarianism and died betraying democracy
and indeed Christendom into Hitler's hands, while cruelty
and bloody persecution swept Germany.
Recently there have been a number of books by Germans
recalling the sufferings of the German people at the end
of Hitler's reign. This book may act as something of an
antidote by reminding us how his reign began.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft's books include "The
Controversy of Zion."