Skip to main content

The Legacy of Nazism and Fascism

ISSUE:  Winter 1944

The Fruits of Fascism. By Herbert L. Matthews. Harcourt, Brace and Company. $3.00. What to Do tvith Italy. By Gaetano Salvemini and George La Piana. Duell, Sloan and Pearce. $2.75. The Hidden Enemy. By Heinz Pol. Julian Messner. $3.00. The Legacy of Nazism, By Frank Munk. The Macmil-lan Company. $2.50. Lessons of My Life. By Lord Vansittart. Alfred A. Knopf. $3.00.

In order to win the peace we must solve the problems of what to do with Italy and Germany after the war is won. Five authors, all passionately devoted to the cause of democracy, have given a genuine expression to their concern about the way in which the legacy of Nazism and Fascism should be dealt with when the time comes. In spite of their different positions and philosophies, and for all the variations in emphasis, they have come to several identical conclusions. The most conspicuous among them is the conviction that World War III is not unthinkable if the causes of Fascism are not eradicated with intelligence and determination. The blame for the present cataclysm is placed squarely upon the shoulders of the various elements in the Axis camp, making it possible for the rest of the world to avoid confusion about the war guilt such as was created a quarter of a century ago. Another conclusion points to the direct and unescapable responsibility of the United Nations for the future development of international relations, if not for the whole evolution of mankind.

Herbert L. Matthews of the New York Times has chosen to warn us and those after us against Fascism by illustrating what it means, and why it failed. “The Fruits of Fascism” is a book of hard facts closely watched, carefully observed, and intimately lived through over a period of years. It starts inevitably with an historical analysis of the broad background of the march on Rome, followed by a description of the rise of dictatorship and of its doctrine, and having illuminated the heyday of the Fascist pathetic glory, it closes the curtain upon one of the most fallacious adventures of our age. To be exact, the writer admits that Fascism has not been a complete record of failure, but the credit side has little to show compared with the appalling list that can be placed on the debit side. Mr. Matthews has much sympathy for the Italian who should not be blamed for the crimes committed in his name. “He will have his new Risorgimento that will rise somehow from the torment of the fiery furnace into which Fascism plunged his country.” However, “the final, devastating answer to international Fascism must come from international democracy.”

“What to Do with Italy” is the collaborative work of two Harvard professors of history, Gaetano Salvemini and George La Piana, both American citizens by adoption. Essentially, it is a book on contemporary events, but well grounded on recent history. Passionate, polemical, and full of impulses, it nevertheless retains a degree of poise, accounted for by the authors’ profound and sincere belief in the righteousness of their cause. There are passages strongly critical of the British Foreign Office and of the United States Department of State for their alleged incompetence in dealing with things Italian. With regard to the future of the Italian state and people, the authors argue against the Fascist-propounded political unpreparedness of the Italians for democracy, believing, as they do, that “the new regime which will supersede Fascism will not need the Monarchy.” The Italian people are not absolved of their share of the responsibility for the rise of Mussolini, but powerful groups and individuals in England and America, mentioned by names and specifically quoted, are equally blamed. “No historian will be able to explain fully the many Fascist successes in international affairs without taking into account the friendly relations between the Vatican and the Fascist dictatorship.” After dealing with the complexity of the problem of re-education, the authors suggest several peace terms to be imposed upon defeated Italy: Fascist criminals should be punished by Italians; the common people should not be held responsible for the Fascist crimes; reparations for material damage and looting should be made in the form of labor; the Dodecanese Islands should be held jointly with Greece; Albania should be administered by an international commission, with some revision of her boundaries at the expense of Yugoslavia and Greece; the problem of South Tyrol having been settled by an agreement between Hitler and Mussolini, the region should presumably be left within Italy; the difficult problem of Italo-Yugoslav frontiers might be best settled through the establishment of a customs union; Eritrea, Somaliland, and Libya should be internationalized, provided that such a solution would be generally applied to colonial problems; and the problem of Italian overpopulation should be solved by an international system of planned migration.

“The Legacy of Nazism” by Frank Munk, a Czechoslovak economist teaching at present in American universities, is a sequel to the author’s earlier book, “The Economics of Force.” Like its predecessor, it deals with the impact of the Nazi economy on the occupied nations, but it is new in conception and material. Not strictly limited to economic analysis, it is primarily directed toward the solution of postwar problems resulting from the Nazi legacy. In fifteen condensed chapters Dr. Munk covers almost every phase and aspect of the economic and social consequences of German totalitarianism. The chapters on the background of Nazi industrial planning, fateful self-sufficiency, uprooted industries, substitute labor, changes in social structure, competition of Nazi officials, superinflation, the command economy, compulsory supercartels, and business birth control are particularly instructive. By his philosophy, Dr. Munk obviously belongs to the school favoring national and international planning, without severing all relations with the concept of private enterprise. “Private enterprise can and will survive, but only with the support and within the framework of government steering.” With regard to the aftermath of Nazism, the author speaks rather eloquently against the assumption that Nazism represented an approach to effective planning. “Nazi economy constitutes but an expropriation of certain basic ideas of planned economy. It is perverse and perverted planned economy, which ought to be returned to its original social mission.” In the opinion of many economists, the Nazi war economy is no economy at all, but a spoliatory system of arbitrary militaristic administration, approaching its inevitable collapse. Nevertheless, Munk’s advice should be weighed upon its merits when he suggests that “experts ought to study the Nazi system not only with a view to waging economic war against it, but also for means of turning the evil machinations of the dictatorship into engines of peace.”

Heinz Pol was assistant editor of the Berlin newspaper Vossische Zeitung. A refugee from the Naziland, long acquainted with the basic fissures of German society, he is well qualified to offer a plan for the treatment of Germany and of the German people after the war. He does it forcefully and convincingly in this latest book, “The Hidden Enemy.” There is much original material in the eight chapters dealing with the origin of the Nazi philosophy, the program of the party, its brain trust, the General Staff, and the sequence of conquests. However, it is the last chapter, fittingly entitled ”The Nazis behind the Nazis,” that is most pertinent and timely. To Pol, Hitlerism is only an up-to-date form of Pan-Germanism, the really essential political, economic, and cultural force behind German imperialism. German imperialists will always embrace Pan-German programs for Germany’s geographical position and for private profit. In the author’s estimation there are about 200,000 men on whom the Nazi upper crust depends for support. The elimination of Gestapo, Labor Front, Peasant Trust, and other central Nazi organizations will ensure the complete destruction of the entire Nazi party machine. The millions of rank-and-file Nazis left over must be segregated, kept under surveillance, denied the right to vote, and limited to the exercise of certain professions. No dealings of any kind can be made with representatives of heavy industry, big banks, the army, the Junkers and aristocrats, the judiciary, the universities and cultural institutions founded since 1933. The second step to liquidate Pan-Germany will consist of “the great purge,” i. e., the complete dissolution of the officers’ corps and police troops, expropriation of the big landholdings, not only in Prussia, but in all Germany, nationalization of the key industries, complete reorganization of all schools and law courts, and elimination of all Nazi and “nationalist” intellectuals who propagandized Hitler. All these measures combined would affect about half a million people. Those with criminal records should be eliminated physically; the others should be rendered harmless. “The problem is not to destroy Germany as an historical entity but to see to it that ‘the heart of Europe’ functions normally and can no longer disturb the world.”

“Lessons of My Life” by Lord Vansittart has already had a stormy reception in England. It provoked sharp controversy centered around the question whether all Germans are the same and deserve the same treatment or whether the Nazis should be separated from the rest of the nation which has, in fact, become the first victim of their unholy conquest. The controversy soon became international in scope and the American publication of this book is likely to stimulate further the discussion of what is undoubtedly one of the most formidable problems of the day. Unlike the other writers discussed in this review, Lord Vansittart has had a long practical experience with Germany in the field of diplomacy. In this challenging book he sums up what his lifetime of diplomatic service (from 1902 to 1941) has taught him about Germany and her relations with the rest of the world. He does it in a persuasive and blunt manner without, however, reducing in the least his reputation as an expert on world affairs or as a distinguished man of letters. First of all, Vansittart is sceptical about the forthcoming constructive revolution in Germany, which so many friends of the German people envisage. Such a revolution would imply the rise of the German people against themselves which would mean a miracle or an acrobatic feat. The Germans are simply not spiritually prepared. “The New Barbarians cannot be admitted to any partnership, till not only we but all Europeans are sure that they have ceased to be barbarous.” To prevent Germany from building up armament industries, she must be de-industrialized and drastically de-looted. A considerable part of the book is aimed at that section of the population of England (and of America?) which “would regard the individual German as innocent as the Englishman of responsibility for the common disaster.” As distinct from the other peoples, the Germans are credited, or debited, with indifference to the rights of others, inability to understand compromise, lack of pity in success, exaggerated self-pity in the case of their own failure, and general characterlessness. Carefully chosen quotations from both the Nazi leaders and the spokesmen of the democracies enliven this work. The final point runs to the effect that “it is an utter impossibility to feel for Europe without feeling against Germany.” “Lessons of My Life” is bound to be either criticized or praised according to the predilections of the reader. In the final analysis it will not be the terms of the peace settlement alone that will decide the future of world security. Of equal importance will be the ability and the willingness of all the United Nations to abide faithfully and firmly by whatever conditions they may agree to impose on the defeated enemy.


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Recommended Reading