The Weekly Quill — A Middle Kingdom Masquerade

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“The purpose of history was to teach people that life was always dominated by struggle, that race and blood were central to everything that happened in the past, present and future, and that leadership determined the fate of peoples. Central themes in the new teaching including courage in battle, sacrifice for a greater cause, boundless admiration for the Leader and hatred of Germany’s enemies, the Jews.” 

Wilhelm Frick, Hitler’s Minister of the Interior, 1933

Eight years after the War to End All Wars, German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann shared the 1926 Nobel Peace Prize with French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand. The prior year, the two had signed a reconciliation agreement in the Swiss town of Locarno paving Germany’s path back into Europe’s fold. Though many argue this was Stresemann’s greatest achievement, contemporaries argue that distinction should be accorded to his introduction of the Rentenmark in November 1923, itself remarkable given he was able to do so in his 102-day stint as chancellor, which ended that month.

The irony is that history has bequeathed upon Stresemann the highest accolades in the Weimar Republic, a chapter in history that solely conjures the scourge of hyperinflation…which his Rentenmark ended. Businesses and the exhausted people of Germany supported this new currency as it was tied to the value of gold and thereby arrested the printing presses. It was the newfound peace proffered, however, that made way for one of the world’s evilest empires. The French could only be persuaded to pull back from their occupation of Germany’s Ruhr region because they believed the new currency could credibly make good on reparations that were hugely unpopular.

In 1962’s Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, Alan Bullock applauded Stresemann’s courage and wisdom, which opened the door for peaceful negotiations by restarting reparations repayments. The catch: “It was also the signal the Nationalists had been waiting for to stir up a renewed agitation against the Government.” Seizing the moment at a speech in Munich, Hitler attacked Stresemann as showing “subserviency towards the enemy, surrender of the human dignity of the German, pacifist cowardice, tolerance of every indignity, readiness to agree to everything until nothing remains.”

Such was the groundswell of unrequited spite, Hitler was able to launch his first of many uprisings, which landed him in jail, but not hanged for treason. As documented by American scholar Louis Snyder, the “Beer-Hall Putsch” was anything but a failure as it emblazoned on the mind of a then obscure Adolf Hitler how nuanced a path to power could be: “It was necessary that he seek political victory by winning the masses to his side and also by attracting the support of wealthy industrialists. Then he could ease his way to political supremacy by legal means.” One of his fellow usurpers who was also tried, found guilty and served prison after the attempted putsch was Wilhelm Frick.

Frick’s loyalty was rewarded with the position of Minister of the Interior when Hitler became chancellor in 1933. In that capacity, he was responsible for the Enabling Act, which conveyed dictatorial powers to the new leader. But Frick, quoted to start today’s Quill, was just getting started. He claimed that the idea of history being taught objectively was rooted in the fallacy of liberalism. Frick went on to draft, sign and authorize the Nuremberg Laws, which gave birth to the Gestapo and persecution of Germany’s Jews and ultimately one of the worst genocides to stain humanity.

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