Friday, October 5, 2012

They Shoot Germans, Don’t They?

 Conrad Veidt as "Kurt"

Take Off  That Monocle or Take Me to Your Fearless Leader

It's always someone else's fault in politics.  Until now, in the European Union, Greece and Germany had no quarrels.  Then came the economic melt down.  Germany, which has been able to keep "head above water", has been called in to help.  Someone in Germany said a dirty word, "Austerity measures."  Someone in Greece replied, "NAZIS!"  Stathis Stavropoulis, Greek political cartoonist, bemoans the daily grind of rendering German politicians in Third Reich garb.  I had to empathize with him.  The article below from Spiegel goes on to say, 'Even the New York Times recently published one of his cartoons, which Stavropoulos characterizes as "more tragic than funny."'  So instead of being grateful not all of Europe was lost, people in the media and government are angry and turning to jingoism, stereotyping and hurtful hate speech, blaming people they don't even know.  Even Angela Merkel, a liberal politician, has been put into "evil" uniforms.  While politicians blame one another, people suffer.  The United States economy is running on the policy of a blank check book and a charge account, which is never paid.  16 trillion dollars and we won't have Germany to bail us out!

When boys are in third grade, war is a distant fiction full of glorious explosions and gory violence.  Girls in the third grade think this is awful and lose respect for boys for at least 7 years or more.  My class was looking at a war cartoon drawn by the great British artist Joe Colquhoun (pronounced Co-hoon).  It was a page from "The Rat of the Regiment", a Terry Thomas type doing everything a British soldier should not.  Wicked and cowardly, “the Rat” used his unconscious Sgt. as a human shield in battle, picked the pockets of the dead,  and enjoyed shooting down “unarmed Krauts” who were waiving a white flag of truce.  My boys, having seen plenty of cable TV, saw nothing wrong in shooting someone waiving a white flag.  "But that would be evil," say I, "A white flag means you are surrendering."  "But they can shoot you," a boy said.  "They are unarmed," I replied.  "What if you were in the trench and had no gun and the enemy came?" I tried to reason.  "Wouldn't you want the enemy to show mercy?  Maybe you could eventually go home?"

I told my father this story adding, “..., as if they shot unarmed German soldiers,…”

“But they did shoot unarmed German soldiers,” my father replied. 

I was aghast.   Dad told me the story of his Uncle Harry, an American soldier in WWI.  His Commander used to say, "Take the prisoners to the stockade and be back in five minutes."   Uncle Harry said it was physically impossible to walk to the stockade and return in 5 minutes.  What he meant was to take the German prisoners out and shoot them. Uncle Harry, being an Irish Catholic, played dumb and really took the German prisoners to the stockade.  He didn’t shoot them.  I suppose he took the consequences when he got back.  So some German soldiers saw their families again. 

Today, it may surprise young readers to hear Germans demonized for simply being German.  Not me.  I grew up in the sixties.  Germans were the villains of choice in Hollywood since the silent days.  In the early fifties there was a brief span of cold war stereotypes.  If you see Wikipedia under “American Anti Communist Films” you find only 6!  By the sixties this went out of style.  Between the McCarthy Hearings and a swing towards secular humanism foundered on a new luxurious American lifestyle, a desperate left sought to bury Stalin by reviving Hitler.  Hollywood literally “….Saved Hitler's Brain”.  Soon only ‘squares” feared “the left”.  If you see films made during and after the War like The Stranger with Orson Welles, his monologue at dinner where he says "Germans" desire not a Godly savior but a dictator.  Note he says, “GERMANS” not Nazis.  Very interesting.  There was a deal of talk in films and in articles about the nature of the German people and their maniacal desire to rule the world.  American soldiers were shown "Your Job in Germany" directed by Frank Capra and written by Theodore Geisel aka Dr. Seuss.  General Patton called this film, "bullshit".  It is a wretched film telling soldiers never to trust a German, as if racism and greed was built into their DNA.  This film is propaganda and propaganda is ugly no matter the source and no matter the subject.  Propaganda films say much more of the filmmakers than of the people being demeaned.

I learned the evils of propaganda at an early age.  As a little girl I saw many TV shows where the idea all Germans are evil because of their blood scared me.  Boys shot me with imaginary machine guns in the schoolyard for being German.  But I didn't want to take over the world or hurt anyone.  Jesus was my Savior.  Many Americans of German extraction like Gen. Eisenhower fought to free Europe.  
“I don't want you to think we are all monsters,” Marlene Dietrich said to Spencer Tracy in Judgment at Nuremburg. Marlene had a problem with a scene where her character denies all the Germans knew about the Holocaust.  Tracy's Judge tells her they did.  It made Marlene uncomfortable, she wanted the script changed but Spencer Tracy told her "it is needed."  It's a strange answer.  Needed?  To condemn all Germans it was, collectively all Germans, not just Nazis.  No one of German descent could ever hold his or her head up.  In the film clip Germans are drinking beer and Marlene has a demi tasse, which contradicts reality.  The Nuremberg trials were held in 1946.  Between 1945 and 1947 the Allies prohibited food imports and production to punish German civilians.  When the Vatican attempted to transmit food supplies from Chile to starving German infants the U.S. State Department forbade it.  Read American food policy in occupied Germany on Wikipedia.  And there were German babies, the women of Europe were gang raped by incoming troops, so common place, it was never prosecuted.  Solzhenitsyn, who was haunted by the gang rape/murder of a little girl he witnessed in Germany, wrote a poem about it.  Talk about a war on women.
"We will never be forgiven for the war," as the German motor mechanic said in a Leonard Wibberly short story.  We should never forget the Holocaust.  My fear is that we have indeed forgotten.  Not by forgiving but by forgetting the Holocaust came not only from anti Semitism but from a society where God was “dead”, sexual liberation and the occult was celebrated, and euthanasia was put into practice by doctors to rid the world of undesirable people.  Sound familiar?  Not only Socialist Germany but also the United States adopted laws which allowed the poor, minorities, the disabled,alcoholics, and the mentally ill to be sterilized.  I recommend this documentary Black Holocaust  and this old film which must be seen to be believed This we have forgotten in America.  The sheriff can’t take you by force to a hospital anymore, unless you live in China, but just wait.  Now we have “death panels”.  And they are “needed”.  Funny how the government has a blank check for every program under the sun but they’ve decided to begin “austerity measures” with the frail elderly and the disabled.

Stereotypes are everywhere in entertainment, as well as politics.  My young readers may not be familiar with Jay Ward’s Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.  The cornball double title was their trademark, like the one above.  Two silly cold war spies, Boris and Natasha worked oddly enough for Fearless Leader, who had a German accent.  If you go to “Fearless Leader” on Wikipedia the article claims he was styled after a chilling propaganda poster of a German general (with a man hanging from a lamppost reflected in his monocle).  The article goes wrong when it claims the German in the poster was based upon Conrad Veidt as Major Strasser in Casablanca.  Major Strasser didn’t wear a monocle.  However, the man in the poster does resemble Conrad Veidt playing General Kurt Von Kolb in the film Escape.

Conrad Veidt got the kind of adulation women gave the Beatles decades later.  Today, he has many fans and aficionados.  Our own John Barrymore brought him to Hollywood.  Only when the talkies arrived, and he was offered the role of Dracula, did he return home to Germany. The world changed.  Veidt hated the Nazis.  Plus, he remarried, Lily, who was Jewish.  They were fortunate enough to have the money to escape to England.  Many others did not.  I knew a very elderly German lady who had a similar journey.  She used to show us the photo of,  "dat vonderful mann", her husband, the handsome pilot.  You might wonder why a decorated WWI flying ace would be driven from his country.  Serving your country cut no ice with the Reich.  He was Jewish.

Veidt was arrested and interrogated when he returned to Germany to complete a film.  He’d made British anti Nazi films.  Thanks to his wife and powerful friends in Britain he was released.  Veidt became a British citizen.  While visiting New York on a promotional tour for the film Contraband, MGM asked him to appear in Escape.  Released in 1940, Escape was one of the first films to reveal the existence of concentration camps.  Veidt didn’t like playing Nazis but he considered it “necessary” to help the war effort.  Laurence Oliver claimed no actor in Britain gave more of his own salary to the British war effort.  Sadly, if Veidt had lived beyond the age of fifty, he would have played an endless stream of Nazis in B movies and TV.  He would have hated that.  If Escape were remade today the ending would have no mercy.

There is an ironic story here.  Escape was a popular novel and executives hired big stars, Nazimova, Norma Shearer, and Robert Taylor.  They needed an actor with charisma to play the smoldering, attractive villain.  So here was Mr. Veidt, making his comeback to the silver screen.  Soft lighting, good tailoring, sparkling monocle.  His charming accent, his soothing voice, he always spoke in a low register above a whisper, which is a trick to make the audience listen.  That walk, he floated into the house, coat on his shoulders like Dr. Doom.  Using his enormous hands to great effect, holding a cigarette like no other or threatening the hero with his fist.  Even when he is revealed as corrupt and cruel he is still slick.  Poor Robert Taylor, as one critic said, came off like a garage mechanic in comparison.  Jerry Allen (Conrad Veidt From Caligari to Casablanca) claimed Veidt in Escape received almost as many fan letters from women as Clark Gable for Gone With the Wind!  Astonishing publicity at MGM.  Never again was Conrad Veidt allowed to have sex appeal in a that uniform.  No soft lighting for Major Strasser - caterpillar mustache, shoe black eye brows and NO MONOCLE.  It is ironic no matter how Hollywood paints Germans as no good they give them a non-human invincibility.  Germans, all Germans, are human just like all the other humans on earth.  There is no evil or lowly race.  No supermen either.  Only one race, the human race.  I wish people would stop forgetting this.  

As as they would say on Rocky and Bullwinkle, "Until our next episode, 'When Liberalism Isn't Liberal or The Party's Over.'"

Citizeness Journalist

Pro life Germans under attack, it’s not easy being pro life,…

Good article by Paul Kengor!  An American high school marching band recently caused a commotion by saluting the Bolshevik Revolution, “St. Petersburg 1917”.  When the supervisor was asked to explain, she saw nothing wrong.  Apparently our scholars make up history to justify their own worldview.  What if the band had performed “Berlin 1933”?  The Supervisor would have lost her job and rightly so.

And now for some good news –

Child actor donates first paycheck to Missionaries of Charity



  1. Great article! Thanks for it and greetings from Germany :) Birgit

  2. Very good article. You are a good writer, Caroline. I promoted it on my both Conrad Veidt websites. Congratulations and keep on the good work!

  3. This was the most read, commented, and popular blog to date. Thanks Birgit and Monica!


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