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The Storm God

ISSUE:  Spring 1988

My husband and I represented that generation of Americans between the World Wars who became student émigrés, spending as many of the Depression years as they could studying in the universities and schools of Europe. Because ours had been a philosophic marriage—we had met in a graduate seminar at Harvard on the Philosophy of History—we had sailed on our honeymoon to Greece, the land of Aristotle and Plato. Greece, however, was crowded with refugees from the Turkish wars and while we were there even had its own revolution; so after some months we decided to settle instead in the land of Hegel and Kant. My husband, who had studied in Heidelberg as an exchange student in 1932—33, knew living conditions in Germany, and chose Freiburg, a quiet city at the foot of the Black Forest and a university town, as a place where we could study without fear of being disturbed by the New Germany which Adolf Hitler was bringing into being.

It was May 1935 when we arrived in the city of Freiburg, and it was Sunday. The railroad station was crowded with travelers of all sorts: families returning from a day’s visit to grandparents, peasants in their traditional Black Forest costume, hikers with knapsacks on their backs who had spent the day walking in the mountains, middle-aged women (always numerous in postwar Europe) returning from Sunday coffee in some neighboring inn, cyclists who had put their bicycles on the train after biking all day and had ridden home at their ease. I was so busy looking in all directions at once that I almost walked into a middle-aged man in a brown uniform— a Nazi. He was wearing the small brown cap of the storm trooper, and he sported a Hitler mustache. A harmless looking man really, paunchy, in his middle forties, probably good father and good husband, an honest shopkeeper maybe or a conscientious bureaucrat in some local government office, but I trembled as if I had seen the devil. “A Nazi!” I whispered, tugging at my husband’s arm, and he looked at the man and nodded assent.

Sunday was the day for uniforms, I was to learn. The cathedral square was full of them, squadrons of brown uniforms marching in formation as the faithful filed past to go to mass. And the woods were full of them: German Maidens, Hitler Youth, brown uniforms of the S.A. and the black uniforms of the S.S., even the green uniforms of the Workers Service which was a kind of National Socialist W.P.A. for the unemployed—all taking their Sunday stroll through the wooded hills that surrounded Freiburg. It was on Sunday that our landlord, Herr Armbruster, donned his storm trooper uniform to take his handsome German shepherd for a walk in the woods. He was a prodigious sight as we watched from our attic window, a veritable Fatty Arbuckle who weighed well over 150 kilos, an “old warrior” who had joined the Nazi party back in the days when Hitler was not taken seriously, and like his model Goering he had a passion for uniforms. He ordered a beekeeper suit once, sending “all the way to New Jersey” for a specially designed suit to wear when he tended the four or five bee hives that stood in a row between the big villa where we lived and his own small home. He showed it to us proudly, the folds and folds of material, the thick canvas that was treated so that it would be sting proof. He was so fat, however, that when he wore it for the first time the folds disappeared and the canvas fitted him like a sausage skin and the bees, not knowing they weren’t supposed to, stung. With the help of Frau Armbruster and her ever present maid he was carried into the house, where he was still recuperating when we came to offer our sympathy. He assured us bee stings were healthy and apparently they were, for his face and body soon regained their normal swollen state and he appeared again at the window of his office from which he could keep a watchful eye on his property. The beekeeper suit must have been returned to New Jersey, for we never saw it again.

Herr Jaffe, a Jew, lived on the first floor of the big villa with his good-looking wife. “Fritz Jaffe, Civil Engineer” read the small brass plate on the door. Herr Jaffe was a slender man, waspish in appearance and correct in demeanor. Shortly after we had established ourselves in the attic apartment, he invited us down for an after-dinner brandy. We sat close to one another in the large and pleasant living room as is the custom on the continent where space is at a premium, and the men talked about America while Frau Jaffe and I smiled at one another. Before serving the brandy and small cakes we were given an apple on a plate with a knife. “Peel it!” Herr Jaffe commanded curtly and handed back the plate to his wife. She glanced up for a second, then obediently took the plate, peeled and cut the apple into eighths, and handed it again to Herr Jaffe who took and ate. I admired this example of German domesticity which I doubted could have taken place in quite the same way in my own country.

We used to see Frau Jaffe often as she went about her housewifely duties, and we always exchanged a few pleasantries, but Herr Jaffe, having extended the right hand of fellowship, withdrew it and greeted us formally and correctly as before.

On the second floor lived Frau Waldheim. “B. Waldheim, Music Teacher” read the small brass plate on her door and beside the brass plate was a small sign that said “Member of the National Socialist Workers Democratic Party,” Frau Waldheim, we were told was an “alleinstehende Dame” a woman who lived alone, a nice phrase that begged the question of marital status. Mornings she practiced Bach and Beethoven while we studied, but the big house was so solidly constructed and Frau Waldheim so genteel a pianist that although we studied in the room above we were never bothered; afternoons when we went out for our walk in the woods we passed one or more pairs of children’s shoes neatly placed at the bottom of the stairs that led to our apartments and when we returned, we returned to the tinkle of scales being played. Only once did I speak at some length with Frau Waldheim or rather, did she speak with me. It was after the annual convention of the Nazi Party in Nuremberg—the infamous one in 1935 which produced the racial laws stripping Jewish citizens of their citizenship and forbidding intermarriage. Frau Waldheim was returning from the grocery store, and I was on my way there when she stopped me. She was glowing with excitement, her owl-like face bright with enthusiasm, her eyes gleaming behind her brown rimmed glasses. She had just come back from Nuremberg! Wunderschön! One whole week she had spent at the Party convention! The flags, the bands, the marching members, oh, she couldn’t possibly describe how beautiful it all was! Thousands upon thousands of men and women! And the speeches! And on the last day, just imagine, the Leader himself had given a speech, and she had stood there in the stadium and listened with her own ears, she had raised her arm in salute, she had joined with all the others in the threefold Sieg Heil! that thundered through the stadium— Wunderschön! And Frau Waldheim, middle-aged piano teacher Frau Waldheim, trembled with emotion like one of Wotan’s mad followers.

Our common meeting ground was the house stairs that ascended from the front door of the house to our attic apartment and had I not affirmed so determinedly the carefree role of a student, had I taken my housewifely responsibilities more seriously, I could have joined Frau Waldheim and Frau Jaffe cleaning the stairs. Saturday was stair cleaning day as it was the day for polishing the apartments and for baking apple cake and for all the other preparations for the Sabbath that persisted as sacred custom in a profane world. Each apartment was responsible for its own flight of stairs, Frau Jaffe cleaning with steel wool the hardwood entrance stairs that led to her apartment and polishing them with wax until they shone, Frau Waldheim cleaning and polishing hers, and the cleaning woman I finally had to get doing ours. I excused myself to myself by saying that no one used our flight of stairs except the peasant girl who delivered each morning a quart of milk in an aluminum can, taking with her the clean can I handed her, and the girl’s mother who came once a month to collect, dressed in her Going To Church costume from the 18th century: puffed sleeves, three-quarter length skirt with an embroidered white apron, and tiny bonnet. But this was not strictly true for we had an occasional visitor and once even an official visitor.

He was a mild mannered man, our official visitor, who wore his Nazi button prominently and who said he was coming to collect for Winterhilfswerke. I shook my head to indicate I didn’t know what he was talking about. He showed me the small collection box he was carrying, decorated with a swastika, in which funds were being collected from house to house. For the needy. He showed me the little book he had, showed me that our names had been written down along with the names of our neighbors and by each name a sum was to be written, the sum of the money to be placed in the collection box. I looked at the names, noting that the average sum given was fifty pfennings, but I was loathe to give even a few cents to the Nazi party so I again pretended that I did not understand. Patiently he went through the whole thing again. I had no choice: I shook my head and said “Nein.” Then, by way of explanation, “Amerikaner.” The little man, bewildered, took a step backwards, his little Hitler mustache quivered and, putting away slowly the pencil and booklet he had been proffering me, he walked down the stairs. A few minutes later I was again called to the door, it was the maid from the Armbrusters, breathless, who informed me that Herr Armbruster sent his greetings and wanted to see me at once. And she hurried down the stairs.

Herr Armbruster was in a jovial mood. He motioned me to sit down by him at his desk, on which lay the collection box and the booklet. The little man was nowhere to be seen. Being an American, Herr Armbruster began, his tone tolerant, his smile benign, I could not possibly understand the significance of Germany’s program for the needy which was Winterhilfswerke. In Germany everyone is employed, and he paused to let the inevitable contrast with my own poor country sink in. The Leader had done away with unemployment; unfortunately however there are still those who suffer in winter from the cold and these the Leader has provided for through Winterhilfswerke, whereby the fortunate Germans can contribute to the needs of the less fortunate. Do I understand? Everyone gives, verstehen Sie? Everyone. Naturally I too will want to contribute to the welfare of the needy—and he picked up the booklet and the pencil and gave them to me to sign the amount I wanted to give. The list of names go to the police and you know how it is, if I were not to give, if my name was lacking among the contributors—a heavy pause—it would look bad, verstehen Sie. I took the booklet and signed. But Herr Armbruster did not want me to leave with any false ideas: “It is voluntary, completely voluntary the program,” leaning back in his chair. “Freiwillig.” He leaned forwards and jabbed a fat finger in my face. “Verstehen Sie? You are giving of your own free will!” I nodded that I understood and put one Reichsmark into the collection box. It was worth it for this demonstration of voluntary giving in the Third Reich.


It was 1936, the year of the Olympics in Berlin. My brother had arrived from a Midwestern high school to stay with us some months before visiting the Olympics on his way home. We showed him as much of the old Germany as we could: the small restaurants in Freiburg near the University, where the students drank their glass of wine and ate their raw bacon and black bread, the theater, where heroes in coats of mail shouted at one another and fought with cardboard swords, the Gothic cathedral in the center of the city, its spire rising gracefully into the heavens, its deep nave brightened by stained glass windows, its saints on the stone walls parading, as if they were the church militant parading through the streets of Freiburg on Ascension Day. And at Eastertide, when the valleys were white with bloom, we put our bicycles on the ski lift to Schauinsland and rode all day past peasant houses like gigantic mushrooms on the mountain’s side, past pasture land framed in dark pine woods to the valley of the Lake of Constance, where we rode from town to town for days, visiting baroque churches and baroque monastaries as we went.

My brother roomed with a German family named Sohlman, who lived in an apartment not far from us—two sons who attended the University and a 16-year-old daughter, who was studying English in the Gymnasium. He used to help her with her homework, and she helped him with his German. One evening something happened that disturbed him. “Mutti has to go to the police tomorrow,” Erika told him, “To register.” He looked up from his book not understanding. “It’s Wednesday.” She was patient with him. “Always she goes on Wednesdays.” And when he still showed no sign of understanding what she was trying to tell him, she said in a low voice, “Her father was a Jew.” My brother had had a 17-year-old’s enthusiasm for the parades he had seen in Freiburg, the marching men, the Swastika banners, the martial music, the Sieg Heils of the masses, all the trappings of the Leader cult. He felt he was seeing history being made. Even when two men one night, as he watched a torchlight parade of brown shirts, had taught the newcomer a lesson in etiquette, the one man knocking his hat off his head when the flag was carried by, the other grabbing his right arm and lifting it in a Nazi salute, even then his enthusiasm had not been lessened. Now, however, Erika gave him pause to consider. He felt, without knowing why, that something was seriously wrong in this new Germany that he had admired. And he knew that when he returned to America he would somehow have to come to terms with Erika’s mother.

Instead of saying “Hello,” Germans said “Heil Hitler!” and when they signed their letters it was with a “German greeting.” Nazi brown was the official color and there were all varieties from the deep chocolate brown of the world-famous philosopher, who strode into the lecture hall at the University of Freiburg in his brown knickers and Bavarian jacket, his Hitler mustache bristling and his right arm extended stiffly in a Hitler salute, to the blond-beige-brown of the Frauenschaft, the Nazi Women’s Organization, who entered self-consciously the Sign of the Lion for their monthly meeting, looking as if they didn’t belong in this room full of men smoking and drinking their beer. And well they might feel ill at ease, our own Frau Waldrich among them, for did not the Leader say that women’s place was in the home tending children except for Sundays at church? Kinder, Küche, Kirche was the Nazi slogan—children, kitchen, church. Only their leader, a tall blond-braided Brunhilda, her face wearing that same look of dedication and higher purpose I have seen in our country on the faces of United Presbyterian Women, only she managed a man-size salute and a resolute Heil Hitler as she led her maidens into a back room.

There were jokes about the Frauenschaft and the Hitler Youth who with “their drawers full” sang “We Are Marching Against England” and the “Beefsteak Nazis,” who were brown on the outside but red inside, jokes about the Strength Through Joy program of forced labor and the huge billboard that proclaimed Germany Has Become More Beautiful, jokes about every aspect of life under the Nazis. Jokes whispered from mouth to mouth from Bremen to Munich the length and breadth of the Reich. How well I remember the closing of the door, the drawing of the curtain over a window so that the very window panes could not see us as we gathered close together to hear the latest joke, two or three trusted souls, glancing now and then over our shoulders to be sure we were not being overheard even in the privacy of the room. And then the outburst of laughter, immoderate, almost hysterical, laughter that was more an expression of relief at being able to express our true feelings than tribute to the wit and humor of the joke. Thank Heaven for the jokes; they were like a trickle from a stream that still flowed freely under the surface of the frozen totalitarian state.

There was one comedian in Berlin who was so popular and so clever in framing his apparently harmless jokes that in the early days he got away with telling them in public. One I recall went as follows: “Ladies and gentlemen,” he would say, looking gravely at his audience, “I am thinking of a great German, highly intelligent man, a lover of truth, a man known throughout the world. Can you guess who it is?” Silence from an audience hanging on his every word. “I’ll give you a hint, his name begins with a “G”.” No response from the audience. “Come now, that shouldn’t be so hard, a great German, a famous German. Suppose I tell you his name begins with a “G” and an “O” and an “E”—a great German whose name begins with “G, O, E”. “Who has the answer?” And from one side of the room someone shouts, “Goehring!” The comedian shakes his head. “I said he was intelligent.” “Goebbels!” comes the shout from another part of the room. The comedian looks pained. “But I said he was a truthful man!” He regards his audience sadly. “Ah, what is our poor country coming to? Are there no educated Germans? Ladies and gentlemen, the great man I was thinking about is GOETHE!”

Goering with his love of gold braid and fancy uniforms was a favorite subject for jokes. When the Vatican Question was settled in 1935, it was whispered that the leader had sent the trusted Goering as his emissary to Rome and that a few days after Goering’s arrival the Leader had received a telegram saying, “The Vatican Question has been settled. The Vatican is burning. The Pope hangs from a tree. Robes are a perfect fit. Signed, Pope Herman the First.” Goebbels, on the other hand, was the most hated man in Germany; he was known as the father of lies, and his club foot linked him too closely with the devil in the popular mind that he should be a subject for humor. And Adolf Hitler was unheimlich, eerie, sinister. The few jokes, if such they could be called, that were told about the Leader were recounted in such a low voice and hinted at such perversion that I never quite understood them.

One night at the Sign of the Lion, where we were having supper, we heard the Leader over the radio. Every head was bowed, every voice stilled. Like a church. It was a rasping voice that came from the loudspeaker, a compelling voice. A voice of inner fury that seethed at times, rose to a shriek at one moment, was sharp as a steel sword the next. “My comrades in race! I swear to you that never again will Germany be beaten in war and humiliated in peace! I will not allow again our enemies to trample on us! I the Leader! I swear it!” Once in Muncie I heard at a dinner party a German professor imitate a speech of Hitler’s he had heard as a boy and when he had finished every hand was raised in a Sieg Heil!

What would have been the course of history, I wonder, if television had come first? Many years after the Third Reich had brought Germany to defeat, I heard the burst of laughter that came from a Berlin audience when they saw in a movie theater Adolf Hitler strut across the screen. He looked like a psychic scarecrow, the little man in an officer’s hat two sizes too big, his walk wooden, his arm extended stiffly in salute, his gestures awkward and unbelievably comic. I was reminded of the laughter I participated in as a child when an American president on Pathé news smiled at us foolishly under a huge Sioux war bonnet he had just been given. Would the Leader have been able to captivate his audience had he appeared on a television screen? The mystic magic of the word was enhanced by radio and carried as a disembodied voice into every corner of the Reich. If the Germans had been able to see as well as hear, would the little man with the mustache have been so powerful?

One voice from the Leader, one party line, one propaganda machine that rolled like a battalion of tanks over the country—and from the populace a silence that seemed to give consent. Here and there someone said No! but the isolating power of the totalitarian state is so great that few heard. In our village outside of Freiburg we were told of an old woman who used to grind the leaders of the Reich together in her meat grinder when Saturdays she prepared her meat balls for Sunday. “Here’s Goering,” she would say as she took a particularly fat piece, and a ragtail end that might have been tossed to the dog she called Goebbels and when she found a particularly choice piece she would say with pleasure “And this is little Adolf!” and stuff them into her meat grinder and grind them into bits. And there were the four or five intrepid souls we heard about who voted Nein to the question, do you support the Leader in his decision to march into the Rhineland, thereby making null and void the infamous treaty of Versailles? They had their ballots torn up before their faces and were not able to join their fellow citizens, all of whom were a big Ja! I voted yes! as they strolled through the woods in their Sunday best, aunts, uncles, grandparents, all part of Goebbel’s 99 and 5/8ths of a percent. Goebbels always declared a 99 percent victory, only the fraction varied.

Fraulein Kruger, our cook in occupied Berlin when we served there in the fifties, told us that her father used to ask her sarcastically, “Are 60 million Germans crazy and you the only sane one?” And she who had cooked for the Kaiser and who had followed the court to Holland before returning to Berlin to cook for diplomats used to shrug her shoulders. “Are 60 million Germans crazy?”


Several months after we had arrived in Germany my husband met on the streets of Freiburg a fellow student he had known in his Heidelberg days. Max Steinhaus was his name, and he arrived for tea on Sunday in his fresh uniform, the brown shirt and trousers, small brown cap with visor and insignia—a full-fledged Nazi storm trooper. He was a round-faced young man, and his round glasses gave him a solemn look; it was not difficult to imagine him as an archivist, for that is the profession he was preparing for, and I could see him when his studies were completed happily working in the bowels of some large government building. He was proud of his uniform. Although his family had been liberal democrats, he was a practical man and when he learned he could not get his Ph.D. unless he joined the Nazi party, he had joined. He assured my husband that Germany was a better place than it had been in the days when they drank beer together in Heidelberg: the Leader had rid Germany of the Communists and would soon rid it of the Jews. How would the Jewish problem be solved? To our question he waved a plump hand. The Jews will leave, it will be as simple as that. Once there were no Jews in Germany there would be no Jewish problem. And the danger of Hitler starting a world war was dispensed with in the same easy manner: England and France were weak, they would never fight, as for the Russians, the Japanese would keep them busy in the Far East, and Mussolini could be counted on to keep the Mediterranean open. And America? we asked, what about America? Again the wave of a plump hand that effectively settled the matter. “Amerika? Amerika ist weit weg!” America is far away—how often were we to hear that phrase repeated!

We had an opportunity some months later to see for ourselves how the Jewish problem was being solved when a leading department store on Adolf-Hitler Strasse went out of business. A few hoodlums sent by the party to heckle customers stood at the front doors carrying signs saying Don’t buy from Jews while half Freiburg streamed past them in their desire to take advantage of the bargains to be had in a going-out-of business sale. We read in the evening newspaper that the sale had been a dismal failure because the public, loyal to the Leader’s economic boycott, had refused to be fooled into buying. Subsequently we learned by word of mouth that the owners had had to pay a substantial migration tax before they were allowed to leave; the system of government intimidation and extortion was being worked out to the last detail as any student of subsequent Nazi history can well imagine. Not a gold filling was to be lost.

When we first arrived, we were conscious of signs in shop windows assuring the public that the store was an Aryan store and therefore could be entered with a clear conscience, but as time went on we paid as little attention to such signs as to a We Give To The United Way sign in an American place of business. So it was that we had been buying cold cuts for our evening meal for some months in a butcher shop near the University before we learned that we were trading in a Jewish shop. One day the redheaded butcher took his time waiting on us and, when the last customer had left, told us in a low voice that he was leaving next week for a visit to America. He was going to Kansas City, he had relatives there, he would look into the possibility of emigrating. “Emigrating” meant leaving Germany for reasons of race. We were silent. He would be gone six weeks, he told us, and the store would be closed until he returned. Six weeks later we returned to the butcher shop and we saw at once that he had been successful. Why does he look so different? we asked ourselves as we left the shop? Is it the American haircut he got in Kansas City? Yes, it’s the haircut, but there’s something else, a look in his eyes. He looks—and we searched for the right word—he looked like a free man. A former sergeant who had been awarded the Iron Cross, he was not lacking in courage, but his spirit had been bowed by the continual pressure from a regime that denied he was a German and labeled him an enemy of his Fatherland.

When after the war we read about the German Mills of Death that Himmler built for the “inferior” peoples of Eastern Europe and for the prisoners of war that were to be taken in Russia, when we learned for the first time the depths of inhumanity to which the Nazis could sink in their efforts to impose a master race upon the world, when we saw indeed what was to be the “solution” of the Jewish problem about which Max Steinhaus Storm Trooper spoke so glibly—the Final Solution indeed!—I thought back upon the butcher shop. The butcher closed down his shop and left but what about his customers? Those neatly dressed men and women who, until they learned we were foreigners and represented no threat, used to cease their excited talk whenever we entered the shop and became strangely silent? How many of them saw the handwriting on the wall? How many sold their businesses or collected together their savings and left? I think it must not be easy to convince oneself that your country doesn’t want you. Some, like the butcher, must have left; some sent away their sons and daughters so that, if things got worse, they at least would be saved; and some must have temporized, telling themselves that they had known persecution before and that this too would pass. For who could have foreseen in the thirties what the war and the forties would bring? When the young American vice-consul in Geneva cabled back to the Department of State in 1943 accounts that he was receiving from Jews of the Mills of Death, his superiors in Washington refused to accept the validity of his reports. They could not believe that such things were happening. And how could those Germans who were being persecuted because of the crime of race imagine what was in store for them?

It was in 1937 that we learned that Herr Jaffe was leaving. We had gone out for an evening stroll when we met Herr Jaffe walking the dog one night and he joined us. He was planning to leave, he told us, he and his wife would be moving to Strasburg in France. It was impossible for him to advance in his profession “under the present circumstances”; he had made the decision to find a position elsewhere, not an easy decision to make, for his wife’s family lived in Freiburg and he himself loved the city. Had he experienced any difficulties in his work, we asked him, had his colleagues given him any trouble? “Nein!” came the answer like a whip cutting the flesh of any coworkers who should make the mistake of venturing too near. “Nein! I know how to protect myself!” And I thought of the apple peeling incident in his apartment and never doubted for a moment that Herr Jaffe could maintain proper professional distance. Next week the large moving van stood before Herr Armbruster’s villa on the Pochgasse and the Jaffe belongings were carried out of the house to be put into the dark interior of the van for the move across the Rhine to Strasburg, A young couple named Schmetterling moved into the first floor apartment; a member of the National Socialist Motorcycle Squadron, the husband spent his Sundays in the Rlack Forest on maneuvers. Frau Jaffe shaking her mop vigorously out of the front window, the trim couple stepping down the Pochgasse Sundays, their wire-haired terrior on a leash, and that rich aroma of real coffee in the hall that we had come to expect in the late afternoon, that smell of Brazilian coffee that signaled the Hausherr’s imminent return from the office—these were gone.

And gone, too, although at the time we did not realize it, was a certain sense of security that we enjoyed so long as Herr Fritz Jaffe, Civil Engineer, ruled the first floor. He had functioned as a kind of guardian at the front door of our house who by the sword of his integrity somehow kept the brown ones at bay. How else explain my nightmare? For it was shortly after the Jaffes had left that I had a dream which shook me as Wotan the storm god shakes the tree. I dreamed that “They” were storming up the stairs in the middle of the night, were breaking open the door to our apartment, and were hauling us away as aliens and spies. What shall I do? I awoke crying, who will help us? And I knew that we had stayed too long in Hitler’s Germany for the terror which was daily being denied had shown me its face and I was terrified.

Many years later I was to see my nightmare enacted on the stage. I attended in Berlin a production of The Diary of Ann Frank and together with the German audience froze with terror when in the last scene They stormed up the stairs of the apartment where Ann Frank and her family were hiding. But this was in 1959, and both I and the audience had been thoroughly instructed in the ways of National Socialism. How in the year 1937 had I known such things happened? I had never heard of anyone being hauled off in the middle of the night nor had I read anything in the press to give me such an idea. At that time I did not know that Heinrich Himmler had just been placed in charge of “detention camps,” as concentration camps were first called, nor that the S.S. were administering those camps of which nobody spoke. Nor did I have any understanding of the new paganism, even though I had seen in church Mein Kampf on the pulpit instead of the Bible and a photo of Hitler on the altar in place of a painting of Christ. That the new paganism would demand its sacrifices of blood was beyond my comprehension.

Carl Gustav Jung knew better. From the vantage point of a Swiss alp he had written in 1936 an article called “Wotan” as a warning to a Europe fascinated by the phenomenon of Nazism. “I described how the wind god of old provided a very apt picture of the force which seized on the German people, stirring up the long-buried barbaric cast.” Wotan, the pagan god, had reappeared. It was he, “the god of storm and frenzy, the unleasher of passion and the lust of battle,” who was responsible for the inner fury which had taken possession of Germany’s leaders and would ultimately take possession of the German people. Wotan the Destroyer had unleashed destructive forces which would “rush headlong to their final destruction, but only after half destroying the world around them.”

And so we left. “In the nick of time,” a friend had whispered, “They think you are spies.” It was March 1938 and a few days previously Hitler had taken Austria. Flags were flying, loudspeakers blaring, shop windows showing pictures of soldiers garlanded with flowers and a smiling populace. All Germany was waltzing to the music of Johann Strauss. Political skies were sunny, political predictions bright. To a discerning eye, however, to the east and to the west of Germany dark clouds were gathering. A storm was brewing that would topple the nations of the world like giant oaks. And in the far off heavens of Valhalla already Wotan was preparing a banquet for his fallen heroes.


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