In a strange way, it appears that Adolf Hitler is still ruling Germany.  In the Federal Republic of Germany, the forces of “democracy,” in the form of political parties, make political decisions by implementing the opposite of what they assume Hitler would have wanted.  Those political parties, the governing opposition, are “democratic” because American military rule has approved them.  In the case of the Green Party, which emerged long after the end of the occupation period, the White House has accepted the statement of Petra Kelly and General Bastian (leading figures of the founding period) during their pilgrimage to the Potomac that the Greens would represent the type of Germans that the Americans had always wanted to bring to power, even though this party encompasses former admirers of Mao and Pol Pot.  The primary purpose of elections in Germany is not to select a government but to ensure that the population (people is considered to be a Hitlerite term) or human beings (Menschen, the term increasingly used instead of people, citizens, or nation) ratify the rule of the democratic forces.  The established German political class longs for a legitimacy that mere elections are not able to provide.  The most prominent method that they employ to gain the desired legitimacy is to make the official interpretation of recent history (Geschichtspolitik) more or less binding and to celebrate relevant historical events.

Most significant in 2004 was the official remembrance of the 60th anniversary of the assassination attempt against Hitler on July 20, 1944.  Official commemoration of this event did not previously play such a prominent role, because it has been difficult to fit this event into the accepted ideological framework of the postwar period.  The leading actors of that failed conspiracy obviously did not want to establish the FRG but to maintain the German Reich (including some of Hitler’s territorial acquisitions) without the dictatorship and the corrosion of the rule of law that characterized Nazi rule.  Though the extensive network that attempted to oust Hitler comprised people of different political convictions, it was essentially a German conservative and right-wing endeavor against national socialism.  If successful, Hitler would have been replaced as chancellor by Carl Friedrich Gördeler, who was elected mayor of Leipzig on the ticket of a nationalist party.  He was allowed to occupy this post after 1933 but resigned in 1937 in protest of the official removal of the statue of German-Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

As provisional head of state, conservative Gen. Ludwig Beck would have been installed.  Most of the leading conspirators hoped for the reestablishment of the Hohenzollern monarchy at a later stage.  The plot can legitimately be considered a last Prussian attempt to avert the destruction of Germany by both modern national socialism and the democratizing enemy states, which included not only the United States but the special “democracy” of the Soviet Union.  The greatest risks in this conspiracy were undertaken by members of the traditional aristocracy, the most prominent of whom was Col. Count Claus von Stauffenberg, who placed the bomb in Hitler’s bunker.

Had the plot been successful, the war would not have ended, though the plotters had worked and hoped for this result.  The Allied Powers, especially Britain under Churchill, had rejected any approach by the German military opposition to get an assurance to this end.  The Allies’ refusal even to discuss the matter was a major reason why the assassination attempt—already under consideration in 1938 at the highest levels of the German military—came so late and why no open popular resistance against national socialism could be created.  A successful coup would have revealed that the Allies did not fight Nazism primarily; rather, Nazism gave them the moral pretext to pursue certain goals that they had not successfully gained (or had abandoned) in World War I.  What, for example, did the mass expulsion of Germans from the eastern territories have to do with the democratization of Germany?

Another question reveals why the commemoration of this assault does not fit into political interests of the postwar period: How was it possible to organize such a rebellion at a high institutional level (including the head of the German foreign secret service under Adm. Wilhelm Canaris) in a regime such as Hitler’s?  Would such an attempt have been possible in Stalin’s Russia?  The obvious answer is that Hitler’s dictatorship was not as totalitarian as that of the Soviet Union.  But if fighting totalitarianism was President Roosevelt’s primary concern, why was there no American war against Soviet Russia, when the Hitler-Stalin pact had been a necessary condition for the outbreak of World War II?  Such questions reveal why the common German soldier found no reason to believe the Allies’ stated war aims.  The demand of unconditional surrender gave these soldiers no choice but to fight for their country—even if she were ruled by Hitler—a condition that thwarted any attempt to eliminate Hitler from within.  The German military resistance also had to accept that situation; but, according to Adam von Trott zu Solz (the leading conservative organizer of the plot), the attempt still had to be made, even if unsuccessful, as a moral gesture—God would save a people if but a few were just.

For Hitler, the conspiracy confirmed that Stalin had been the better socialist.  Stalin had purged the armed forces of the remnants of the czarist period, whereas Hitler, as a result of his strategy to come to power democratically, had prevented himself from proceeding forcefully against the German right, which remained established in the military, the bureaucracy, and in business.  Hitler’s legal acquisition of power and connected compromises, in contrast to the Soviets’ murderous civil war, gave the national-socialist regime the appearance of a more traditional Latin American-style dictatorship than Hitler had intended.  To a certain extent, Hitler tried to rectify that “mistake” by a purge following the coup attempt, and a Soviet-style terror policy was finally implemented, personified in the presiding judge of the Special Court, Roland Freisler, who had gained some experience in these matters as a communist commissioner in the Ukraine in the 1920’s.  (The normal German courts had not been brought sufficiently in line to use them to employ Stalinesque “legal” procedures.)

The full-scale suppression of the German right by Hitler after the coup attempt was perfectly compatible with the Allied aim of democratizing Germany.  This is proved by the fact that the BBC reported the names of some plotters before the Nazi secret police could have found them out.

American democratization policy ensured that no German right-wing party would be licensed by the American occupation; and, after the occupation, the emergence of such parties would be prevented by the official “history policy” that suggested that Hitler’s rise to power happened not as a result of democratization after World War I but of the German-Prussian “authoritarianism” of the 19th century (under which Hitler would never have gained power).  Had the plotters formed a political party with the same agenda that motivated their action against Hitler, that party would likely have been prohibited in “liberated” and “democratized” Germany!

Considering those historical circumstances, it appears very unlikely that the commemoration of the events of July 20, 1944, will help to legitimize the political class of the FRG, whose major belief is that May 8, 1945, constitutes liberation and not defeat, despite the loss of one third of German territory, the separation of Austria, the mass expulsion of Germans, the mass raping of German women by Soviet soldiers, and so on.  Official reinterpretation of historical events on a grand scale is necessary to bring both the motives and the purposes of the plotters of 1944 in line with the political agenda of the current period, which aims at the dissolution of European nations, especially the German nation (since, they assume, Hitler would have done the opposite).

The self-contradictions of the official “history policy” of the German government are too obvious to be convincing to the public.  On the other hand, a pact has been established between the political class and the people at large in postwar Germany: You politicians give us economic affluence, and we will tolerate or even accept the ideological doctrines that you consider a prerequisite of democracy.  This compromise does not really solve the basic problem of political legitimacy, since an economic crisis is very likely to turn out perilously for the current German political system, bringing that very system under close scrutiny.