Number Ten may well be busy trying to bring the country out of the Coronavirus lockdown; too quickly and not quite in a logical way, in my opinion, but Conservatives still seem content on stoking up a culture war and trying to rewrite history. The Black Lives Matter movement in the last few weeks have triggered it but the government seem intent on distracting us from their failures with arguments over statues and so-called ‘lying about our history‘.
This is where Lord Norman Tebbet [Image above from The Daily Mirror] came in with an absurd claim in his Telegraph article…
Churchill was the great wartime leader in the fight to save this country and liberate our friends on the continent from the curse of Hitler’s extreme Left, anti-Semitic, German National Socialist Workers’ Party regime.Lord Tebbet, The Telegraph
The claim by the former Conservative Party Chairman was extraordinary, so much so that he was still trending on twitter more than five hours later after the article was published. That’s no mean feat given the football was on at 6. It is unfortunately not the first time Lord Tebbet has aired similar views. Also in The Telegraph, he argued the Nazis were socialists because it was in the name of the party back in September 2018 in response to the New Statesman ran with a front cover warning of the rise of the far-right.
As someone who is a History buff, studying it at University including interwar Germany, this is something I had to respond to.
Despite the word being in the party name, The (NSDAP) were not socialist or left-wing, not in the slightest. The phrasing of the party name was the calculated move by Adolf Hitler in 1920 to help try and broaden the appeal of the party beyond its then narrow localised Bavarian base. The consensus amongst historians is that they were not socialist in any meaningful way at all. That includes the views of renowned historians such as Ian Kershaw ad Richard Evans who I quote below…
‘Despite the change of name, however, it would be wrong to see Nazism as a form of, or an outgrowth from, socialism…Nazism was in some ways an extreme counter-ideology to socialism’Richard J Evans
While they did speak of socialism and socialist like policies such as nationalisation and profit-sharing in large enterprises, it was coated in nationalism. This was only meant for Germans. They also demanded that only who they saw fit as Germans could hold office, could vote and anyone not born in Germany had to be in the country at the outbreak of the First World War. Anti-semitism was clear before Hitler joined, in fact it was a key factor. They did not see Jews as German.
The blend served Hitler and the NSDAP well after realising he could not take power through force the 1923 Munich Putsch but it was only in the context of the wall Street Crash and the resulting Great Depression which immensely hurt Germany that it worked electorally for them. With the centrist german parties struggling during the crisis and the political instability caused by the Propositional Representation in Weimar Germany, people turned to alternatives and that is where they thrived.
While the Nazis gained support after 1929, so too did the Communists. The German social establishment was fearful of Communism in particular. They knew what was happening in Russia after the Bolsheviks took power and the seizure of property that had occurred as the Soviet Union formed and feared it. The Autocratic President Hindenburg came to the view that Hitler was the only way to prevent communism taking hold. It is in that context of a scared conservative elite that Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on 31st January 1933.
Now Lord Tebbet, if you feared the left-wing, in such time of political instability would you give power to someone on that side of the political spectrum?
Once Hitler was appointed Chancellor, you need only look at his actions and who his party persecuted to realise he was not left-wing. Crushing the Unions and the political left were among his key ambitions as Communists, Socialists and Unionists were targeted in the streets with violence. The Communist and Socialists Democratic Parties were banned within a year as Hitler consolidated power and those who did not go into exile were housed in Dachau.
While the Concentration camps became known for the Holocaust and the murder of 6 million Jews, they were not originally intended for that. The so-called final solution was not arrived at until January 1942. So, when Dachau opened in 1933 it was to be ‘the first concentration camp in the world for olitical prisoners’ which included the Communists, the socialists etc.
Given Lord Tebbet did live through the second world war (he was 8 when war broke out in 1939), we have to allow him some leeway. The Nazis were evil and their defeat is something that should be celebrated but to say the Nazis were left-wing is an ‘infantile‘ shameful attempt to rewrite history; exactly what the Prime Minister accuses the protestors of doing…