Nazifying the Germansrnby Ralph RaicornNot long ago a German friend remarked to me, jokingly,rnthat he imagined the only things American college studentsrnwere apt to associate with Germany nowadays were beer,rnLederhosen, and the Nazis. I replied that, basically, there wasrnonly one thing that Americans, whether college students or not,rnassociated with Germany. Whenever Germans are mentioned,rnit is Nazism that first springs to mind; whatever elsernmay occur to one later will be colored and contaminated byrnthoughts of the Nazis. When Molly Ivins (described by JustinrnRaimondo in Colin Powell and the Power Elite as a “liberalrncolumnist and known plagiarist”) remarked of Pat Buchanan’srnspeech at the 1992 Republican convention, “it sounded betterrnin the original German,” everyone instantly knew what shernmeant. The casual slander was picked up by William Safirernand others, and made the rounds. A constant din from Hollywoodrnand the major media has helped instruct us on whatrn”German” really stands for.rnAnd yet, as some Germans plaintively insist, there are 15rncenturies of history “on the other side” of the Third Reich. Inrncultural terms, it is a not unimpressive record (in which thernAustrians must be counted; at least until 1866, Austria was asrnmuch a part of the German lands as Bavaria or Saxony). Fromrnprinting to the automobile to the creation of whole branches ofrnscience, the German contribution to European civilization hasrnbeen, one might say, rather significant. Albertus Magnus,rnLuther, Leibniz, Kant, Goethe, Humboldt, Ranke, Nietzsche,rnKarl Menger, Max Weber—these are not negligible figures inrnthe history of thought. And then, of course, there’s the music.rnThe German role over centuries in transmitting advancedrnculture to the peoples to the east and south was critical at certainrnstages of their development. The Hungarian liberal, GasparrnM. Tamas, speaking for his own people, the Czechs, andrnRalph Raico is a professor of history at the State University ofrnNew York College at Buffalo. His Die Partei der Frciheit: Studienrnzur Geschichte des deutschen Liberalismus aus liberalerrnSicht will be published this year in Cologne.rnothers, wrote of the Germans who had lived among them andrnwere driven out in 1945 that their “ancestors built our cathedrals,rnmonasteries, universities, and railway stations.” As for ourrncountry, the highly laudatory chapter that Thomas Sowell devotesrnto the German immigrants in Ethnic America is one ofrnthe best in a fascinating book. More than five million Germansrncame to the United States in the 19th century alone (accordingrnto recent census figures, around 57 million Americans nowrnclaim to be of German heritage). Together with the descendantsrnof the immigrants from the British Isles, the Germansrnform the basic American stock. They were highly valued asrnneighbors, and their ways were woven into the fabric of Americanrnlife—the Christmas tree and “Silent Night,” for instance,rnand the family-centered Sunday, with its “jovial yet orderly activities,”rnas an admiring contemporary put it. Is there anyrndoubt that when Germans composed the leading populationrnin hundreds of American cities and towns, these were happierrnplaces to live in than many of them are today?rnYet the air is filled with incessant harping on an interval of 12rnyears in the annals of this ancient European race. In the normalrncourse of things, one would expect a countervailing defense tornemanate from Germany itself. But it is precisely there, amongrnthe left intelligentsia, that many of the prime German-hatersrnare to be found. The reasons for this are fairly clear.rnOver the last decades, these intellectuals have grown increasinglyrnfrustrated at their own people, who remain firmly bourgeoisrnand order-loving, with little interest in neo-Marxist transformationsrnof their way of life. Increasingly, too, thatrnfrustration has been vented in hatred and contempt for everythingrnGerman. Most of all, the Germans were condemned forrntheir hopelessly misguided past and bourgeois social structure,rnwhich supposedly produced Nazism. Anguished complaintsrnlike that from the conservative historian Michael Stiirmer, thatrn”we cannot live while continually pulverizing ourselves and ourrnown history into nothing, while we make that history into arnpermanent source of infinite feelings of guilt,” were merelyrnfurther evidence that the Germans stood in dire need ofrnJANUARY 1997/15rnrnrn