Thursday, 23 March 2017

Hunting Griffins: The BNP and Freedom of Speech

For the past few weeks I've encountered the thorny issue of free speech(tm) pretty much everywhere I look on the web. A lot of the back and forth is very old but one in particular has worn out its welcome. It concerns the British National Party (BNP) and their leaders one and only appearence on current affairs/political debate show Question Time on the BBC. 

In Liberal mythology this event has become something of an exorcism when Nick Griffin BNP leader and Britains main far right bogeyman was exposed for what he was and firmly defeated by the power of rational debate on a national platform watched by millions (eight million, the show has an average of 2.7 million per episode). And his party quickly crumbled into obscurity.  Its a good story, there's just one problem, its not remotely true. Its not even coincidental, and yet for some reason this myth has grown over time in proportion to the amount of evidence against it.

Now aside from annoying me this myth is potentially very dangerous which is why I decided to outline what really happened

First just a quick primer, the BNP came out of the collapse of the National Front, a fascist group that tried to be both an electoral party and a street fighting organisation. After its collapse the BNP launched itself as legal political party though individual members kept getting exposed for links to violent crime and terror. they became known as the fascists in suits, they tried to make far right policies and ideologies more respectable and mainstream. A big part of their propaganda that wasn't aimed at demonising migrants was that they were being unfairly targeted and singled out by the liberal establishment and attacked by communists. In what most believe was a shameless quest for higher ratings the BNP leader Nick Griffin was invited to the mainstream political debate show Question Time. 


The appearance occurred on the 22nd of October 2009. At the time it was very controversial multiple organisations and politicians criticised the decision to invite the leader of the BNP and there were large protests outside the BBC Television Centre. About 20 or so protesters managed to break into the studio reception area and six were arrested. The episode was broadcast in full despite these incidents, what happened next was a major case of mutual confirmation bias. Liberals who supported the invitation and looked forward to an opportunity to humiliate the stupid bigot rejoiced they got what they wanted. Meanwhile the Brit Nats were also gloating as their main champion got to call out the liberal establishment to its face. Griffin himself tried to play the bullied martyr calling the audience a lynch mob and lodging a complaint about his treatment.

That was the event, now according to the liberal narrative this was the start of the end for the BNP, one thing you'll notice when you encounter someone saying this is that don't have any evidence to back it up. There's a good reason for this, what evidence we do have shows the opposite. In the 2010 General election, the first elections after Nick Griffins appearance the BNP won 564,331 votes. That is the best results they've ever had and put them in fifth place in terms of votes cast.

Yes that's right the BNP in 2010 were the fifth largest party in the UK. In 2005 the general election before Nick Griffins humiliating defeat on QT, they polled 192,745 votes, and coming eighth in vote share. That's not a collapse or a drubbing, if the evidence says anything its that the QT appearance gave Griffin and the BNP a shot in the arm.

The BNP did collapse mind, but that was several years after the big debate at the BBC. Most place 2014 the year Nick Griffin finally lost the leadership as the period when the collapse of the BNP became irreversible. But the collapse was the result of other things, like infighting, competition, financial problems, increased opposition etc. Indeed if we to thank anything one thing for breaking the back of the BNP it would have to be Marmite.

No that last part wasn't a joke, Marmite really did do a lot of damage to the BNP. In 2010 Marmite had released a new series of ads based on their long time slogan "you either love it or you hate it" and the upcoming general elections. There were two ads styled like party political broadcasts one from the "Love" party who love Marmite, the other from the "Hate" party which, well hates it.

Now the Hate party was a parody of Nick Griffin and his policies. The BNP were not amused and decided to hit back in their own party political broadcast

Yes really, they super imposed an image of a Marmite Jar into the corner so it looks like its hovering. No I don't get it either. Though they did do a bit better by ending the broadcast with another picture of the jar with "Love Britain vote BNP" at least that one makes sense. It also violated copyright law. Unilever the company that owns Marmite were not pleased, shortly after the BNP ad aired they sewed the party and in July 2010 just after the elections they won £170,000 in damages.

But bosses at Marmite makers ­Unilever were furious at the BNP broadcast and began High Court proceedings for breach of copyright.
BNP caved in and the amount claimed is put by insiders at between £70,000 and £170,000.
Former National Organiser Eddy Butler has said the BNP is “on the brink of bankruptcy”.
And last night a ­spokesman for anti-racism group Searchlight said: “The Marmite fiasco has been a ­disaster from start to finish for ­Griffin.”
Unilever confirmed a settlement had been reached but said the terms were confidential.
This was a serious problem as it took a massive chunk of money from the party just after a General election, when a party has spent most of its assets on candidate registry and propaganda. It also dominate the news in regards to the BNP just after the elections overshadowing the BNPs historic performance at the ballot box. Both these issues exacerbated the other problems, infighting and competition.

At this time both the English Defence League (EDL) and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) were squeezing the BNP. The party was formed to make racism more respeactable and mainstream but UKIP was doing a better job of that, it beat the BNP in both 2005 and 2010 elections.
And the EDL was attracting the right wing extremists that were never happy with the focus on elections instead of street action.

“In broader terms, the party is struggling anyway because of the rise of Ukip and the internal factionalism.
“It is fair to link the rise of Ukip and the fall of the BNP because there is a degree of overlap. Ukip’s success has restricted the space but, after 2010, the BNP was arguably finished anyway.”
If your curious the link is dead but Nick did repeatedly call the EDL a Zionist front
Nick wasn't a fan of the EDL, though after being kicked out of the BNP in 2014 he warmed up to UKIP.

That was outside the party, inside the party it was even worse. See most Fascist subscribe to the Fuhrerprinzip, it means that the leader can do what he wants, its extreme hierarchy. However this has a drawback, if the party faithful aren't happy with the way things are going, then the only way to change course is to topple the Fuhrer.

“I will not allow anyone to undermine me in my new role”, he said in one exchange after taking the reins. And he added: “gone are days when anyone with a gripe could use special pleading with the Chairman to undermine officials. That includes you, by the way, Nick!”
So if the demise of Nick Griffin means the victory of Liberal Democracy then I guess it means its champions are Tommy Robinson, Nigel Farage and Unilever. Hurrah?

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Interview with IWW/GDC Survivor of UW Shooting

Some good news, the victim of a far right extremist in Seattle has recovered enough to give an interview on what happened and what he intends to do now.

The KEXP 90.3 radio program Mind over Matters has recorded a roughly 30-minute interview with Fellow Worker Hex, the IWW and GDC member who was shot on January 20th outside of the Milo Yiannopoulos event on the campus of University of Washington, Seattle.

The Seattle General Defense Committee has a new web page and is hosting this interview there as well; go check it out.
In this first interview with the press since the shooting, Hex talks about the experience of being shot, the importance of having a network that supports you when you are attacked, the responsibilities of firearm ownership and use, and the problems with the punitive model of justice.
We in the Twin Cities GDC salute our fellow defender and friend, continue to wish him speedy recovery, and call upon all those who oppose fascism in the Pacific Northwest to make your support of antifascist efforts known to your community. Make sure that our people are supported and defended, so that they can continue to help support and defend our communities.

Thursday, 16 March 2017


WITH ROEHM DEAD AND THE SA Vanquished, Himmler and the SS quickly emerged alongside Hitler as the true victors. Within a short time, Himmler would preside over an empire of death whose factories of mass extermination would work around the clock, turning contragenics into ash. He was now the second most powerful man in the Third Reich. And like his master, he now had the opportunity to realise his deepest obsessions. His every whim, however perverse or murderous, was regarded by his SS henchmen as law. The mammoth effort to effect Hitler’s “Final Solution” for Europe’s Jews would increasingly absorb his time and energy. I this, unfortunately, he was largely successful. Himmler had a special horror of homosexuals, whom he was determined to exterminate as well. In this he enjoyed only a partial success. His raging homophobia, which was responsible for a vicious campaign against Germany’s homosexuals, struck fear in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of gays, and resulted in the deaths of thousands of others. In order to understand why he put such an effort into this campaign, we have to try to unravel the strands of his twisted personality.

There have always been two Himmlers: the colourless, sickly bureaucrat, hiding behind his pince-nez and his towers of alphabetised file cases, staying up late to scrutinise the family trees of prospective SS officers or the shape of “Aryan” skulls excavated in Tibet; and the ogre, the creator of the stunningly efficient Gestapo machine, the remote-control mass killer, ordering the elimination of entire populations without any visible sign of remorse. But most people who met Himmler shared the opinion of Walter Dornberger, the officer in charge of a Nazi experimental rocket base: “He looked to me like an intelligent, elementary school teacher, certainly not a man of violence. I could not for the life of me see anything outstanding or extraordinary about this middle-sized… man in grey SS uniform.”

Others, like Helmut Heiber, who collected and edited Himmler’s letters, felt that “there was something threatening about his personality, something inhuman.” Carl J. Burckhardt, the Swiss historian and diplomat, representative of the League of Nations in Danzig, met him twice between 1937 and 1939, before most observers had any inkling of Himmler’s fatal capacities. Burckhardt, an intelligent aristocrat from Basel, who seems rarely to have lost his composure, later wrote:

It has always been said that Himmler had the look of an elementary school teacher. I don’t know whether one can generalise about the looks of elementary school teachers… one really does these people an injustice… Himmler was of medium height, he had a round, pale face, a tiny, thin mouth; because of the pince-nez on his nose, his eyes looked like a caricature… When he tried to imitate his master and gave his eyes a hypnotic Fuhrer stare… or when, saying hello or goodbye, he attempted an expression of firm sincerity, one was tempted to think: Why all these efforts? Himmler was much more intelligent than one would conclude from his deeds and his appearance, and perhaps because of this he was essentially disloyal…Nevertheless, he radiated something much more insidious than did “his Fuhrer.” Whenever I met Hitler, I always had the feeling of a certain weakness, and of being with an obsessed man…. Himmler didn’t seem obsessed. He was sinister through the degree of concentrated subservience, through a certain narrow-minded conscientiousness, an inhuman punctiliousness about which there was something of an automaton.

Himmler was obsessed, all right, but it was another type of compulsion- less visible than Hitler’s, more like that of a reclusive miser constantly counting his hoard of gold. This bureaucratic side, however, was not how most of the world saw him. The world perceived Himmler as the butcher who ordered all Russian prisoners of war to be killed, and as the man who organised the destruction of European Jewry. It was Himmler’s SS that set up and ran the concentration camps, beginning modestly in 1933 with a few criminals, Communists, Catholics, liberals, Socialists, Jews, and homosexuals in Dachau, and that, within ten years, had extended its network of terror over more than half of Europe. It was Himmler’s “Order of the Death’s Head” that supervised the gassing of inmates and the salvaging of the gold fillings in their teeth to be deposited at the federal bank in Berlin in an account credited to the fictitious “Max Heilinger.”

By 1935 and 1936, when the campaign against contragenics, including homosexuals, began in earnest, Himmler’s officers were legally entitled to arrest suspects on any pretext, force admission of crimes not committed, and throw the victims into camps where they were without legal recourse. Next to Reinhard Heydrich, who was assassinated in 1942, Himmler’s name was the most feared throughout Germany and the occupied territories. His image was that of a monster, devoid of any shred of humanity. He did little to dispel that impression. In October 1943, for example, he topld SS leaders assembled in Poznan, Poland:

What happens to the Russians, what happens to the Czechs, is a matter of utter indifference to me… Whether the other peoples live in comfort or perish… interests me only insofar as we need them as slaves for our culture; apart from that it does bot interest me. Whether or not ten thousand Russian women collapse from exhaustion while digging a tank ditch, interests me only insofar as the tank ditch is completed for Germany… Most of you know what it means to see a hundred corpses lying together, five hundred, or a thousand. To have gone through this and yet, apart from a few exceptions- examples of human weakness- to have remained decent, this has made us hard. This is a glorious page in our history that has never been written.

It was also at this conference that Himmler “specifically made the connection between [the Roehm purge] and the policy of annihilation and confirmed the continuity of crime as a maxim of the regime.”
Himmler was both too pallid and too monstrous, it appears, to captivate the curiosity of most historians. Thus, no book has been written that is equal to the many excellent biographies of Hitler. What I will attempt here is less ambitious: first, to trace Himmler’s career briefly from unhappy pupil to grand inquisitor and, second, to describe his paranoid and homophobic universe of gods and devils, a universe closed to rational argument but endowed with its own peculiar logic.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

On the Puppet Strings: Israel and the USA

One of the really nasty features of internet politics is the ease of which anti-Semitic jokes, slanders and conspiracy theories can spread across the world and cover themselves up in a veneer of respectability. Its pretty bad in general, if you make a habit of scrolling through comments on youtube videos you'll eventually see at least a dozen comments alleging all sorts of underhand Jewish plots against well anything really. The Jews are behind communism, except for when they're controlling the world through stock markets and global finance. They're motivated by secret religious teachings, or a pathological hatred of everything and everyone who isn't them. Except for pure and virginal white Christian girls, though apparently they'll move heaven and earth to get a hold of them. Oh and the Holocaust was a lie, except for the parts of the Holocaust that the Jews deliberately allowed to happen, is all three dimensional chess with these guys.

I've even seen people claim that the Jew is using "the blacks" as footsoldiers in its war against white civilisation.... somehow. I've recently seen several substitute the black population with the LGBT groups as a sinister Trojan horse against the white civilisation.... again somehow. They're usually sketchy on the details of how these brilliant plans work but one conspiracy where there's a lot of detail concerns the apparent power of the Israeli state to control the worlds only Superpower.
For example a piece on website A website that amongst other things hosts holocaust revisionism as a lengthy essay called Israel's International Conspiracy, about how the pro Israeli lobby through the use of local Jewish populations is strong enough to greatly distort their host nations governmental systems and even bring down American Presidents.

President George H. W. Bush (the good Bush) suffered a similar come to Jesus moment in 1991 when he went on national television to denounce the pressure tactics of the Israel lobby.
The Israeli government was demanding U.S. Treasury backed loans to construct illegal settlements. President Bush, who was running for reelection and far ahead in the opinion polls, suddenly was confronted by a well-funded and organized opposition raising doubts about him and his record. And President Bush was not reelected, presumably learning along the way that one does not trifle with the Israel Lobby, to be replaced by the enthusiastically Zionist Bill Clinton.
 This part of the essay is one of the few that has any kind of substantiation via that hyperlink, and I'll get to that later.

 A lot of people, many of whom wouldn't have any patience for the other thousand and one crackpot theories about Jewish people, have grossly misunderstood the international relationship between the United States and Israel. In short they've got it backwards, its not that Israel can bully and blackmail the United States into doing its bidding, its that the United States uses Israel from time to time and isn't threatened by Israel's pursuit of its own interests. And I can actually disprove this theory with just a few easy to find examples.


An AWAC (Airborne Warning and Control System) is one of those military planes with a great big radar dish on top of it. In the 1980's the Reagan administration was in talks with Saudi Arabia to sell the Saudi's a few spare AWACS for about $8 billion. The plan also included selling the Saudi kingdom other weapon systems including parts of F-15 fighter jets with the AWACS becoming the symbolic figurehead of the deal. The sale was extremely controversial, announced in 1981 it didn't go through until 1986. It was such a major even there's a wiki article on it and this is the first paragraph on it:

 The sale of AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia by the United States administration of President Ronald Reagan was a controversial part of what was then the largest foreign arms sale in US history. The sale saw objections from a majority of Americans, prominent US Senators, the State of Israel and the Israel lobby.[1]

Get that last part? The sale was bitterly opposed by the Israel government and its lobbying interests (the supremely powerful AIPAC) and yet Reagan spent nearly five years arguing and arm twisting in Congress to get the deal approved.

Here's a statement from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

The Foreign Ministry Spokesman said today that the American government's decision to sell additional parts for the F-15 planes is cause for the utmost concern and intensifies the danger to Israel. This sale, as with the handing over of other war material by the industrial nations, escalates the arms race in the area to dangerous proportions liable to endanger the strategic balance in the Middle East.
As is known, these and other considerations were brought to the attention of the American administration by Foreign Minister Shamir during his last visit in Washington. The Foreign Ministry Spokesman also reiterated Israel's view that the area's problems cannot be solved by an unrestrained arms race, but rather through negotiations, with all the nations of the area joining the Camp David process and the active support of this process by all the nations outside the area.
The Spokesman also stressed the fact that Saudi Arabia is not a "moderate" nation with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict, but is counted among the leaders of the advocates of war against Israel, and provides aid to the PLO and to all those nations and elements actively fighting against Israel.

Now Reagan's lobbying for the AWACS deal did focus heavily on rather vague claims that arming Saudi Arabia would be good for security in the region and Israel specifically.

THE PRESIDENT. This morning Congress was notified of our intention to sell AWACS aircraft and F-15 enhancement items to Saudi Arabia. I have proposed this sale because it significantly enhances our own vital national security interests in the Middle East. By building confidence in the United States as a reliable security partner, the sale will greatly improve the chances of our working constructively with Saudi Arabia and other states of the Middle East toward our common goal-- a just and lasting peace. It poses no threat to Israel, now or in the future. Indeed, by contributing to the security and stability of the regions, it serves Israel's long-range interests.
Further, this sale will significantly improve the capability of Saudi Arabia and the United States to defend the oil fields on which the security of the free world depends.
As President, it's my duty to define and defend our broad national security objectives. The Congress, of course, plays an important role in this process. And while we must always take into account the vital interests of our allies, American security interests must remain our internal responsibility. It is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy. An objective assessment of U.S. national interest must favor the proposed sale. And I say this as one who holds strongly the view that both a secure state of Israel and a stable Mideast peace are essential to our national interests.

[My bolding]

I think this statement is largely honest in its intentions, the United States was more concerned with protecting oil fields on the Arabian peninsula then the strategic defence of Israel so the Reagan administration was willing to fight for five years to make sure the plan went ahead over Israeli objections.


 In 2015 the United States government and the Islamic Republic of Iran came to an agreement on Iran's nuclear power developments. The deal was welcomed by some as the ongoing development of Iran's nuclear capabilities and hostility between the two governments kept tensions very high. Quite a few feared a potential war could result.

One group that wasn't happy about this however was the Israeli defence lobby. After the signing of the deal they released an incredibly hostile statement comparing President Obama to Chamberlain and the Islamic Republic to Nazi Germany.

"The Israeli defense establishment believes that agreements have value only if they are based on reality. They have no value if the facts on the ground are opposite to the ones the agreement is based on," said the statement. "The Munich Agreements didn't prevent World War II and the Holocaust because their fundamental assumption - that Nazi Germany can be partner to any agreement - was false, and because world leaders at the time ignored clear statements made by Hitler and other Nazi leaders."
 Meanwhile Prime Minister Netanyahu a well known opponent of Iran and friend of the Israeli military establishment, publicly distanced himself from the critics in Defence Agency and tried to reassure the US of Israel's loyalty.

"The Israeli position on the Iran deal remains the same, but the prime minister staunchly believes that Israel has no ally more important than the U.S.,"
read more:

 Jonathan Pollard

 Jonathan Pollard is a former intelligence analyst for the United States government. In 1987 he was sentenced to life in prison for violating the Espionage Act. In 1998 the Israel government admitted that they had been paying Pollard to leak intelligence to them.

Israel paid Pollard in cash, jewels, and expensive travel for his espionage, which his first wife Anne abetted.

Despite smuggling secrets for pay and trying to get similar deals with other nations,  Jonathan Pollard became a celebrity political prisoner in Israel. The government gave him citizenship in 1995, and several prime ministers have lobbied hard for his release. Which finally bore fruit in 2015 in the aftermath of the US Iran deal.

 Now I have seen a few people argue that his release is proof of the power of the Israeli lobby but I'm not convinced. The quotation about being paid in jewels is from a very sympathetic and article about Pollard and just above the bit I quoted was a list of other American intelligence agents who were found guilty of leaking secrets to other nations and they got much lighter sentences.

For example, Navy Lt. Cmd. Michael Schwartz (not Jewish), who passed classified documents to the Saudis from 1992 to 1994 was simply discharged from the military, but never prosecuted, and served no jail time. Others who sold or disclosed documents to friendly countries such as Great Britain, Egypt, the Philippines or South Africa, generally received terms from two to four years and were released early. True, these espionage incidents were vastly less damaging than Pollard’s crime, and often did not involve compensation.
Indeed the article is so pro Pollard it argues that his much more serious punishment was motivated by anti-Semitism, an allegation it doesn't really back up aside from coincidence. Indeed he was sentenced to life imprisonment because he plead guilty. And he was in prison from 1987-2015 with several Presidents, (Reagan, George Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama's first term) rebuffing repeated attempts to reach a deal for his release by the Israeli government and the pro Israel lobbying groups. 

The Good Bush(!)

I think now is a good time to get back to that essay from the beginning. It laments how President Bush Snr, was defeated by the Israeli lobby over his opposition to loans for settlement expansions. It aside from a hyperlink to another article, it doesn't substantiate the point which is odd since really the crux of the argument relies on it. Anyway the article goes into a lot more detail about the incident but it has some problems.

The article The Bush Decision Point, written in 2014 goes into detail about the re-election campaign period for Bush Snr, particularly his fight with AIPAC other the issue of terms for loans to Israel. For example

In May 1991, both Bush and Baker publicly called the settlements an obstacle to peace. In response, under AIPAC’s prodding, Congress began pushing Bush to release the loan guarantees on Israel’s terms, meaning Israel could use the money to build wherever it wished. On September 6th, Bush asked Congress for a 120-day delay before considering the Israeli loan request. AIPAC pushed back, flooding Capitol Hill with lobbyists. On September 12th, Bush called a press conference and denounced both Israeli West Bank settlements and the Israel lobby. He told reporters he was “up against some powerful political forces” designed to thwart him., adding that “a thousand lobbyists” were working the Hill, while he was “one lonely guy” on the opposite side. This pushback was initially very effective: rapid polls showed a large national majority in favor of the President and against the Israeli request, and Congress agreed to a delay.
But the problem is that the article doesn't actually provide evidence that this was a crucial turning point in the campaign. Indeed the article does acknowledge several of the more well known controversies in the last year of the Bush Snr Presidency.

 He then goes on to portray the difficult political landscape Bush 41 faced that fall: resentment from the GOP base over the breaking of the “no new taxes pledge”; the economy in recession; a somewhat dysfunctional White House political operation; the “unexpected” defeat of Dick Thornburgh in Pennsylvania’s special Senate election. And then, as the election year commenced, Pat Buchanan’s primary challenge, the relative success of which encouraged Ross Perot to undertake his own independent candidacy.

The author expands on the special Senate Election which happened after the split between the President and AIPAC as evidence of the extent of the damage.

As Goldberg notes, the important off-year election was the Pennsylvania Senate contest, where moderate Republican and close Bush ally Richard Thornburgh held a 44 point lead over Harris Wofford in mid-September. Within 10 days, money began pouring into Wofford’s inert campaign and the Democrat began to rise in the polls. In the final weeks Wofford was raising money at twice Thornburgh’s pace. After he lost by 10 points, Thornburgh told Bush he was the “canary in the coal mine.”

But there's no evidence that this money was raised by the Israeli lobby. I've looked and I can't find any evidence of this myself, I did however find that Wofford the Democratic candidate had already started to gain on Thornburgh and that Woffords campaign was used as a test bed for the Presidential campaign. Wofford had spoken out about the need for health care reform and attacked Thornburgh for his closeness to the President and the poor performance of the economy.

 Mr. Wofford, who was appointed to the Senate in May, was initially given almost no hope of winning the election. But in a trial run for themes that are certain to be important next year, he concentrated on the need for national health insurance and the problems with the economy and offered general pledges to help the middle class. In the last month he climbed in the polls by an average of almost a percentage point a day, and today he leapt ahead.
 So I'm not really convinced.

A bit later on the author admits how tenuous this linking of the fight with the Israel lobby is to the downfall of Bush Snr.

The president performed poorly in heavily Jewish precincts, but not enough to be decisive in any state. It would be too speculative to connect the settlement controversy to the transformation of Bush’s public image from the masterful diplomat who had put together an anti-Saddam coalition in 1991 to the out out of touch preppy of a year later.
 [Bolding my own]

Which is good to see, though now I'm questioning why the author felt the need to write this up since even they admit there's no smoking gun.

I will however address Bush's poor if indecisive performance amongst America's Jewish voters I would add this, according to the voting records at the Jewish Virtual Library, Bush Snr did indeed do worse amongst the Jewish population in 1992 (11%) then he did in 1988 (35%) but in both elections the majority voted for the Democratic candidate. 64% Voted for Dukakis in 1988 and he lost. So it appears that Jewish voters aren't actually very decisive, so while I'm sure the rift didn't help Bush Snr here, I very much doubt it played a very important role in the grand scheme of things. Especially given that the period is dominated with "read my lips, no new taxes" and Ross Perot nicking 20% of the vote (two thirds Republicans).

So in conclusion I don't think the idea that Israel is controlling the White House holds much water. On the contrary I think we've seen quite a few occasions were the two have diverged and when a period of negotiation and national level bickering fail to bridge the gap the United States will favour its own interests over that of Tel Aviv.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Resist Capitalism: My Favourite Tweets

On the 25th of February (my time) Twitter users started getting #ResistCapitalism to trend. The Hashtag is still being used, though I think its fair to say its lost a bit of steam. Kinda funny since user coffee luver, seems to be a major fan of it. Now I'm usually really sceptical about social media activism, but I think this is actually a pretty good use for it. It simply makes it easier for the curious to find out information that wouldn't normally come across. Some tweets were pretty bad, but some were very good, so I thought I would share some of the ones that caught my eye and slipped in a few of my own tweets.

Hey now, if I didn't think they were any good I wouldn't have tweeted them.

Here we go:

Saturday, 25 February 2017


“THE NIGHT OF THE LONG KNIVES” – THE popular phrase for the bloodbath that began on June 28 and lasted until July 3, 1934- saw Adolf Hitler wreck the SA militia and order the shooting of its chief, Ernst Roehm, the man who, since 1919, had been Hitler’s sponsor and faithful second in command. Long before Hitler decided to “burn out this pestilential boil,” as he later labelled the SA leadership, he had built up the SS. A black shirted crew of tough body guards well experienced in street fighting, the SS, led by Heinrich Himmler and his deputy, Reinhard Heydrich, was conceived as an “elite guard” and was originally subordinate to the SA. Himmler’s dislike of Roehm, his superior and a homosexual, was an open secret. While the SA had skyrocketed from 300,000 members in January 1933 to three million eleven months later, the SS, which had begun with only three hundred members in 1929, had grown to just fifty thousand by 1933. Himmler’s hopes for expanding the SS rested on keeping Roehm’s ambitions in check. For his part, Roehm sought to replace the Reichschwer, or regular army, with his own SA. It was a dangerous desire. Roehm had never understood, as Hitler did, the need to avoid conflict and rivalry with the military, or any act that might provoke the army to move against the Nazi Party. Roehm didn’t understand why his brown shirted bully boys, so effective at spreading terror and intimidation when the Nazis were out of power, were now thought, after January 1933,  to be an embarrassment and an obstacle. Inner-party rivalry grew more heated and bitter. Himmler, together with Heydrich and Goring, used every opportunity and means to drive a wedge between Hitler and Roehm, even going so far as to accuse Roehm, as Hitler’s only serious potential rival, of planning a coup against the Fuhrer. At long last, Hitler was forced to conclude that the SA, unruly and undisciplined, headed by a man whose objectives threatened his own, simply had to go. Operation Kolibri (German for “hummingbird”) was on.
On the night of June 28, when Hitler flew to Munich, he was accompanied by his usual entourage and a small cohort of SS officers. He had alerted Adolf Wagner, the Bavarian minister of the interior, to have the local SS armed and ready. The Reichschwer, under the command of Colonel Werner von Fritsch, clandestinely provided arms, munitions, and transportation. Himmler, Heydrich, and Goring were put in charge of Berlin. Some weeks before, Hitler had secretly picked Roehm’s successor, an obedient SA leader named Victor Lutze. The SA, Hitler would explain later, had been planning a putsch and had to be stopped by force. In fact, Hitler’s overthrow was the furthest thing from Roehm’s mind. Officially the SA was on vacation, dispersed all over the country. Roehm and his close followers were staying at the idyllic Pension Hanselbauer on Lake Wiessee, near Munich. A meeting between Hitler and Roehm was to take place on July 1 – a last effort to iron out the problems arising from Roehm’s stubborn insistence on replacing the regular army with SA. Unaware of the web of intrigue spun by his Nazi opponents, Roehm was looking forward to a reconciliation with his old brother in arms.
But once Hitler arrived at the Munich “Brown House,” he arrested the first two SA lieutenants he met, and ordered Sepp Dietrich, the commander of his bodyguard regiment, to round up all the SA men he could find and take them to Stadelheim prison. Then the Fuhrer’s motorcade proceeded hurriedly to the Pension Hanselbauer in the Bavarian countryside. Without warning, the SS troopers stormed the hotel. SA Lieutenant Edmund Heines, a Nazi Party stalwart whom Hitler especially disliked, was caught in bed with his young chauffeur. When Heines protested, an SS man smashed his face. Heines was arrested on the spot, handcuffed, and, together with Roehm and five other leaders, transported to Stadelheim, now overcrowded with bruised, uncomprehending SA men. The five, including such party veterans as Hans Peter von Heydebreck and Colonel Count Hans Joachim von Spreti-Weilbach, Roehm’s aide de camp, were executed the same day, together with several SA subordinates who never understood what was happening. Roehm, dazed and shaken was left in a solitary cell.
Meanwhile, the swift purge, orchestrated by Heydrich, was taking its toll in Berlin and other German cities. About three hundred people were killed, many in no way connected with the SA but hated or feared by someone in the Nazi bureaucracy. Among them Gregor Strasser,a veteran Nazi theoretician, suspected of leftist leanings. He was thrown in a prison cell, tortured, and then riddled with bullets. The last Chancellor before Hitler assumed that office, General Kurt von Schleicher, was shot down at his home “while trying to escape arrest.”
Throughout Germany, old scores were settled. For the first time the Third Reich showed its true face. In Munich, Hitler ordered the SA regulars to the “Brown House,” screaming that they were al “homosexual pigs,” though he well knew that only a few in Roehm’s immediate entourage were homosexual. In Berlin, Goring greeted the stunned SA lieutenants with abuse, also calling them “homosexual pigs.”
So far, Ernst Roehm had been spared. We will never know whether Hitler was beset by any last minute regrets about his oldest comrade. In any case, on July 1, an SS officer entered Roehm’s prison cell, handed him a revolver, and said, “I’ll be back in fifteen minutes. You have a choice.” Roehm is supposed to have answered, “Let Adolf do it himself. I’m not going to do his job.” Later that same day, Roehm was finally executed by two SS hitmen, led by Theodor Eicke, later picked by Himmler to organise the proliferating concentration camps. The corpses of the Stadelheim victims were taken away in a butcher’s tin lined truck.
Ernst Roehm was born in Munich on November 28, 1887, of a respected family of civil servants. Unlike other Nazi leaders, he appears to have had a peaceful childhood. In his rambling autobiography he describes his father as a “stern patriot of the old vintage,” and raves about his mother, to whom he remained dedicated all his life. From the start, he wanted to be a soldier.
At nineteen, Roehm gained entrance to the Tenth Regiment, named after Prince Ludwig, the Bavarian ruler. Until the end of his life he remained an admirer of all kings, especially those of the Bavarian branch. After he entered Germany’s War College, he quickly rose in the ranks and was detailed to supervise the training programs for new recruits. His success was enormous. He loved turning country bumpkins into professional warriors. He also exhibited administrative abilities, becoming chairman of a committee that resolved grievances among officers. Yet his real vocation, as he insisted repeatedly, was to train “raw country youngsters.”
From early on, he displayed an irreverent attitude toward those higher in rank, a trait that got him in trouble throughout his career.  Later he would observe that “an intelligent, thinking subordinate is the natural enemy of his superior.” Roehm often went out of his way to let his superiors know that he considered them inept. His ill-concealed contempt did not endear him to the army’s high command. During his entire career Roehm battled incessantly with his higher-ups, and quickly gained a reputation for being unnecessarily abrasive.
Like many other Germans of his generation, Roehm welcomed the First World War. “With joyous pride, Germany enters the greatest war in her history,” he wrote. He was never given to boasting about his career at the front, and he tended to dismiss the fact that half his nose was shot off, leaving him scarred for life. He went back to the front until his last injury, around 1916 or 1917, made him unfit for combat. His talent for organisation must have been apparent, because he won the admiration of Erich Ludendorff, the notoriously difficult administrative genius of the German army.
After the defeat in 1918, Roehm, like many other soldiers, joined one of the dozens of post-war paramilitary organisations. But, unlike others, Roehm continued to engage in secret work for the army, storing clandestine weapons at a cache in Bavaria. Still, he was drifting and he knew it. He longed to live in a truly modern state modelled after the military. Roehm was convinced that a technological monarchy was the answer to Germany’s problems. He was a man in search of a king.
Roehm met his liege in 1919, when he gave a bewildered thirty year old veteran with an odd little moustache his first job. They had much in common. Both had been front line fighters and both had been wounded (Hitler had been gassed). Roehm quickly became Hitler’s most trusted friend. (When talking to Roehm, Hitler used the familiar form of address. Except for his chauffeurs and valets, no one else in Hitler’s entourage will ever be so honoured by such a gesture of intimacy- not even Martin Bormann, the “Watchdog of the Inner Chamber.”) Four years after their first meeting, Roehm took part in the famous abortive Beer Hall Putsch. Many of the conspirators were killed; Hitler was shot in the left arm, tried, and sentenced to one year in prison. Incarceration provided quit and leisure. Treated more like a celebrity than a convict, Hitler began composing his political manifesto, Mein Kampf. Roehm, too, was briefly jailed, but the court placed him on probation.
Hitler’s admiration for Roehm’s organisational skills grew as Roehm built up the SA. The Fuhrer’s need for Roehm was so great that he steadily ignored every report of Roehm’s homosexual activities. In 1925, however, they quarrelled – though not over Roehm’s sexual preferences- and Roehm resigned from the SA. Roehm soon found himself embroiled in an embarrassing lawsuit against Herrmann Siegesmund, a Berlin Hustler, who had somehow gotten hold of several incriminating letters. In the end, the suit was dismissed, but the damaging letters were to haunt him for the rest of his life. (In 1932 the letters were leaked to the press and proved to be a boon to his enemies within the Nazi Party. More than his homosexuality, it was Roehm’s indiscretion and lack of discipline that angered many of his comrades. In a letter to Rudolf Hess, Martin Bormann wrote to express his outrage: “I have nothing against Roehm as a person. As far as I’m concerned, a man can fancy elephants in Indochina and Kangaroos in Australia- I couldn’t care less.” But Bormann was offended by the spectacle of “the most prominent SA commander…. Slandering and denouncing people [in his letters] in this blatant manner.”)
In his autobiography, Roehm defended himself without apology. “Nobody can call me a puritan… A so-called `immoral` man who does something competently means more to me than a so-called `morally` clean person who is inefficient.” For Roehm, a left-wing storm trooper who fought well was preferable to a fearful Fascist- a sentiment he often voiced when ordering his SA subordinates to recruit among the Communists. Or, put another way, a brave homosexual was to be preferred to a cowardly heterosexual. Roehm believed that in order to be a “real fighter,” a leader must remain a bachelor. His admiration for Julius Caesar, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Prince Eugene of Saxony, and King Karl II of Sweden was unbounded: “One can barely imagine that they yielded to feminine wiles.” Indeed, the last three are known to have been bisexual or homosexual. He complained vigorously about the smear campaigns against him. “It appears to me to defy all laws of common sense if the state takes it upon itself to regulate the private lives of human beings or tries to redirect these lives toward other goals.” He detested the “incredible prudishness” that motivated the “guttersnipes” attacking him.
Finally, Roehm left Germany and accepted a job training the Bolivian army. From La Paz, feeling banished and isolated, he poured out his heart to a gay Berlin physician and astrologer, Dr Karl Hellmuth Heimsoth. He sorely missed Berlin’s pleasures. His attempts to convert several Bolivians to his special type of eros went unrewarded, but he added in a letter to a protégé of Heimsoth’s, “I will continue bravely to try and spread some culture here, probably without success.”
In 1929 a party squabble threatened to tear the SA apart; a rebel group under Captain Walter Stennes had started to mutiny. Stennes taunted Roehm’s stalwarts at a rally, dismissing them as “sissies in frilly underwear who couldn’t order their boys around.” As the rebellion grew more serious, Hitler urged his old friend to return to Germany. Roehm did not hesitate to heed his Fuhrer’s call, and his armed squads quickly and ruthlessly suppressed the mutineers. The “sissies,” as it turned out, knew how to use their revolvers.
Roehm was made chief of the SA and went on to preside over its expansion, recruiting thousands of adoring, unsophisticated young men. He kept their loyalty until the end. According to his recollections –and even his most venomous enemies within the Nazi Party never disputed this- he never began a sexual relationship with anyone under his command. Indeed, Roehm was thirty seven years old when he had sex with another man for the first time. It must have taken a certain amount of bravado for Roehm to conduct his affairs as casually as he did. Whether this was a sign of indifference and courage or just plain foolhardiness is hard to know. What is certain is that such unabashed behaviour earned him the unending hatred of Himmler and Heydrich, both still nominally under Roehm’s command.
For about one year, Hitler kept faith with his second in command. When complaints about the blatantly open homosexual behaviour of Roehm and his henchmen continued to reach him, Hitler issued an official statement: “Some people expect SA commanders… to take decisions on these matters, which belong purely to the private. I reject this presumption categorically…. [The SA] is not an institute for the moral education of genteel young ladies, but a formation of seasoned fighters. The sole purpose of any inquiry must be to ascertain whether or not the SA officer… is performing his official duties…. His private life cannot be an object of scrutiny unless it conflicts with basic principles of National Socialist ideology.”
Grateful for Hitler’s support, Roehm responded by issuing an order of the day that flaunted his homosexuality and widened the gap between himself and his enemies: “I take advantage of the prevalence of these… excrescences of prudishness… to make it clear that the German Revolution has been won not by philistines, bigots, and sermonisers, but by revolutionary fighters…. It is the SA’s task not to keep watch on the attire, complexion, and chastity of others, but to haul Germany to its feet by dint of their free and revolutionary fighting spirit. I therefore forbid all officers and men of the SA and SS to employ their activities in this field and allow themselves to become the stooges of perverse moral aesthetes….”
Roehm’s bold declaration must have infuriated Himmler, whose loathing of homosexuals knew no bounds. But he could not act against Roehm without Hitler’s permission- and that permission would not be forthcoming until the Fuhrer was persuaded that Roehm was no longer needed. And until his 1933 takeover, Hitler had little choice but to rely upon his SA captain. Roehm’s storm troopers had provided a spigot of terror that Hitler had turned on and off as the occasion demanded. The SA had cleared a path to power. By the end of 1933, Hitler had succeeded brilliantly: most important government jobs had been filled by Nazi Party members; the expulsion of non-Nazis from key positions in the judiciary, the civil service, and various bureaucracies proceeded without complication. Neither left-wing, moderate, nor conservative groups offered significant resistance. Hitler had swept everything before him. Yet some internal problems persisted. Among them, in 1934, was one that Hitler did not wish to face: what do with Roehm and his Brown Shirts now that they were no longer needed.
To put it plainly, in 1934, this swashbuckling mercenary, father and drillmaster to his troops, straightforward and tactless, simply did not grasp Germany’s political reality. Quick on the battlefield but slow in politics, Roehm never understood Hitler’s renunciation of insurrection in favour of a strategy of legality to consolidate his power. Circuitous tactics in the military or political arena were beyond Roehm’s imagination. Roehm was never able to understand why Hitler, now that he was a chancellor, seemed so solicitous, even generous, toward the army and the ancient regime. For Roehm, unlike Hitler, had never learned the lesson of the failed putsch of 1923: if Nazi victory was to be achieved, it would be necessary to win the army’s support, or at least its acquiescence. Hitler’s embrace of the tactics of apparent accommodation, even compromise with the old order, seemed to Roehm to be a betrayal of the original ideals of the Nazi Revolution. But it was precisely these tactics that Hitler had to use to outmanoeuvre the barons of industry and the patricians of the army. Hitler had been elected chancellor by the slimmest of margins. Now he had to reassure the industrialists and army aristocrats that he could be trusted to pursue a course of moderation and to expel the extremists within his own party.
But Roehm kept trying to push his pet scheme: the SA must incorporate the regular army into one powerful unified force, under his command. It was, he felt, the only sure means of guaranteeing the purity of the Nazi Revolution. At first the military had welcomed Roehm, since the SA had militarised thousands of men who, because of the 1918 treaties, could not join the regular ranks. But the high command had never countenanced the possibility that a coarse homosexual Bavarian provincial should actually run the armed forces.  General Walther von Brauchitsch, one of Roehm’s more outspoken critics, remarked: “Re-armament is too serious and militarily important to be left to hoodlums and homosexuals like Captain Roehm.” But as the SA grew, Brauchitsch and other leading officers began go fear that the army might well be replaced. To General Werner von Fritsch, commander of the regular army, it was  unthinkable that the ragged upstarts of the SA could be anything but subordinate to the professional military men of the  Reichschwehr. (It is one of the many ironies to be found in the Third Reich’s history that von Fritsch, who conspired to smash the SA and propel Himmler’s SS into power, would four years later fall victim to an SS plot in which the general’s alleged homosexuality would topple him from power.)
Above all, the Fuhrer needed a strong, devoted fighting machine. He realised that the Reichswehr, not the SA, was its natural nucleus. Even before the death of the aged President von Hindenburg, Hitler had made up his mind: a new war would first subdue the decadent West; then a crusade eastward would vanquish Russia and conquer Europe. To achieve these goals, Hitler had to appease the Reichswehr officers, to induce them into accepting him unconditionally as their leader. And thus a bargain was struck: in exchange for the destruction of Roehm and the SA, the army would swear loyalty to Hitler. This it did. Within one month after the purge, soldiers were obliged to swear personal fealty to Hitler, not to the German state. What the Reichswehr nobility failed to grasp was that they had made a pact with the devil. They did not foresee that “within less than ten years of Roehm’s murder, the SS would have succeeded, where the SA had failed, in establishing a Party army in open rivalry with the generals’ army…”
At the start of 1934, however, when the deal was made, the army tried to drive Hitler into speeding up the liquidation of their homosexual competitor. Hitler might have put off a decision for many weeks- he often showed a surprising and, to his staff, unnerving talent for procrastination- if events had not forced his hand. Roehm’s adversaries were also manufacturing additional “events.”
On February 28, Hitler assembled both the army high command and Roehm’s executive officers. He had prepared a surprise. He announced a timetable for a new European war. Both groups were stunned. Next, Hitler laid down the law: the army was to remain the only legitimate military force. Roehm did not immediately react. Hitler then left quickly with the army high command. Afterward, Roehm exploded:
Adolf is rotten. He’s betraying all of us. He only goes around with reactionaries. His old comrades aren’t good enough for him. So he brings in these East Prussian generals. They’re the ones he pals around with now…. Adolf knows perfectly well what I want… Not a second pot of the Kaiser’s army, made with the same old grounds. Are we a revolution or aren’t we?...The generals are old fogies… And guys like us have to cool our heels, when we’re burning for action… The chance to do something really new and great, something that will turn the world upside down- it’s a chance in a lifetime. But Hitler keeps putting me off… He wants to inherit a ready-made army all set to go… He’ll make it National Socialist later on, he says. But first he’s turning it over to the Prussian generals. Where the hell is revolutionary spirit to come from afterwards? From a bunch of old fogies who certainly aren’t going to win the new war?
A shocked Victor Lutze reported the outburst to Rudolf Hess, the Fuhrer’s deputy. To make things worse, a week later Roehm gave a speech praising the valiant SA soldiers, contrasting them with the decadent bourgeoisie and its commercial values. It was an act of consummate folly. On April 20, Himmler and Heydrich were appointed heads of the Gestapo, thus giving Roehm’s most implacable enemies nearly limitless powers.
On June 4, Hitler attempted to reason with Roehm. It was to be their last discussion- only Roehm did not know it. The talks lasted five hours. Later, witnesses testified that both men were exhausted and angry. On one point Roehm gave in: he agreed to send the SA on vacation in July and August. He too needed a rest: he suffered from fatigue and neuritis. Two days later his rage got the better of him and he published another reckless statement:  “The SA is, and will remain, the destiny of Germany.”
Meanwhile, Himmler, Heydrich, and Goring were busy cooking up the “proof” that Hitler needed to make up his mind. Numerous documents containing secret SA orders to start a revolution, to march against the Fuhrer, began to pile up in Hitler’s office. Army generals found files stamped “Secret” mysteriously appearing on their desks. Inside were lists of officers to be liquidated after the new putsch had succeeded. Himmler and Heydrich had to work especially hard even the man in the street might wonder how the SA could have prepared an uprising of such magnitude when half its ranks and almost all its leaders were on vacation.
From then on, everything conspired to drive Hitler in one direction. When visiting President von Hindenburg, who clearly did not have much more time to live, Hitler met General von Blomburg of the army, who reminded him to get rid of Roehm and his ruffians. Even the fact that Hitler flew out of Berlin to attend the wedding of a minor official played into the hands of the SS. Now it could bombard the Fuhrer by phone with faked news of streetfights, uprisings, and other ominous SA doings. On June 26, Roehm received a notice that should have put him on guard: for “behaviour unworthy of an officer,” he was being expelled from the prestigious Officers’ League. Roehm did not let it upset his vacation plans. On June 27 or 28 he moved into the Pension Hanselbauer on Lake Wiessee and assured his staff that Hitler would hold a meeting with the SA leadership on July 1st. all problems would be ironed out then.
Meanwhile, army troops in Munich went on alert; ammunition was distributed; plans were readied for occupying the railroad station where the SA leaders would arrive the next morning for the Hitler-Roehm conference. And on June 28, Hitler, surrounded by Sepp Dietrich’s bodyguards, stormed into the “Brown House” and the Night of the Long Knives had begun.
Roehm had made it easy for Hitler to act against him by so flagrantly flaunting his homosexuality. His unapologetic behaviour had provided a convenient peg on which Hitler could hang a multitude of sins. But Roehm’s sexual habits were a sideshow; they were never the real cause of his downfall. To be sure, in addition to the charge of treason, the homosexuality of some of the victims of the purge was offered as justification for their deaths. Homosexuality within the SA was used by Hitler as a ploy so that he could pose as the moral leader of the Nazi Party and the Reich. After the purge, Hitler had a directive ready:
I expect all SA leaders to help to preserve and strengthen the SA in its capacity as a pure and cleanly institution. In particular, I should like every mother to be able to allow her son to join the SA, [Nazi] Party, and Hitler Youth without fear that he may become morally corrupted in their ranks. I therefore require all SA commanders to take the utmost pains to ensure that offenses under Paragraph 175 are met by immediate expulsion of the culprit from the SA and the Party. I want to see men as SA commanders, not ludicrous monkeys.
But it was difficult to make Roehm appear as a ludicrous monkey; it was easier to make him disappear. Thus, on July 12 Roehm’s name was ordered removed from those “Swords of Honour” that worthy SA men had been awarded as badges of merit. The name of the “Roehm House” was changed. All photographs of Roehm in party offices were removed and destroyed.
Neither Roehm nor his SA had ever harboured any actual plot to upstage Hitler and the army. And it was Goebbels who had suggested that Roehm had schemed to infiltrate the networks of power with his homosexual cronies. Roehm was innocent of such charges. He was a master at street fighting, but a novice at political intrigue. The tactics of stealth were simply beyond Roehm’s skills. Nevertheless, Roehm had provided as easy a target for his enemies as Magnus Hirschfeld. He hadno respect for his superiors; he was blunt and tactless when voicing his opinions; and he rarely bothered to hide his interest in muscular young men. He was the most visible homosexual in German politics, he was a Nazi, and he was doomed.
For most observers at the time, the elimination of Roehm and his SA was regarded either as an inner-party squabble, as an honest attempt by the Fuhrer to create a morally respectable society, or as a symptom of the Nazi regime’s internal weakness. Some thought that the Roehm affair meant that the Nazi Party was so riven by unrest and factionalism that it would not survive much longer. Only much later did the world realise that the true significance of the purge was the legalization of crime in the name of the state. As Karl Dietrich Bracher, one of the best informed historians of the period, has written: “The arbitrary power of the Fuhrer was formally turned into a principle…Murder officially sanctioned and lauded became the norm for the smooth future annihilation of political enemies, Jews, and `inferiors.`” Barely two weeks after the purge, Hitler, addressing the Reichstag, declared: “If anyone reproaches me and asks why I did not resort to the regular courts of justice, then all I can say is this: in this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people. I became the supreme judge of the German nation… Everyone must know for all future time that if he raises his hand to strike the state, then certain death is his lot!”
Ina single blow, by eliminating Roehm and the SA, Hitler had resolved the old conflict between political and paramilitary leadership, removed a potential and embarrassing rival, gained the support of the generals, freed Himmler and the SS from their subordinate role, and bolstered his own image as a tough leader capable of imposing discipline and high moral standards on his own party. But the real meaning of the Roehm affair escaped even seasoned observers: namely, that under Hitler wholesale murder had become a permissible principle of state. This principle, embodied in the Roehm purge, was to have enormous and hideous implications for contragenics of all types – Jews, leftists, homosexuals, liberals, clergymen, Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Precisely one year after the Night of the Long Knives, and shortly before the anti-Jewish laws were announced in Nuremburg, stringent new laws concerning homosexual conduct among men were promulgated. The date on which these new restrictions were made public- June 28, 1935- clearly alluded to the Roehm purge of the year before. The crusade against those dangerous contragenics, the homosexuals, was on.

Monday, 20 February 2017


The Nazi war against Germany’s homosexuals, to be properly understood, must be seen against the backdrop of the terrible tensions and social traumas that ultimately were to cause the collapse of the Weimar Republic. For the severe economic depression, widespread unemployment, galloping inflation, and bitter civil strife that were to engulf Germany in the Wake of World War I also consigned the country’s small but vigorous homosexual-rights movement to oblivion. That movement, which began around the turn of the century, would reach its peak in the early 1920s, under the remarkable leadership of Dr Magnus Hirschfeld. It would enjoy its greatest influence at precisely the moment that the larger society whose prejudices it sought to change began to spin out of control. To understand the fate of Germany’s homosexuals it is necessary to grasp not only the specific events and warring ideologies that destroyed the Weimar Republic and created the conditions that permitted the rise of the Nazis, but also the general atmosphere of Germany between 1919 and 1933.

The anxiety and insecurity that would come to grip all social classes by 1933 began with the shock of military defeat at the end of World War I. it was a war that had left 1.7 million German soldiers dead and another four million wounded. The returning veterans, convinced that they had been betrayed, claimed to have been “stabbed in the back”. Most Germans agreed. How was it possible for the Kaiser’s mighty army to have been defeated? Only days before the end, hadn’t the army’s own press releases promised the certain victory of the “sacred German cause”? what the man in the street suspected, what the popular press trumpeted, was that traitors at home had caused the great catastrophe. War profiteers, foreigners from the East, Communists, Socialists, the Jews – all were to blame for Germany’s humiliation.

A tidal wave of shame and resentment, experienced even by younger men who had not seen military service, swept the nation. Many people tried to digest the bitter defeat by searching furiously for scapegoats. The belief that internal enemies had brought down the Empire, the Kaiser, and the “Golden Age of German Power” was widespread. Enraged ex-soldiers and younger men formed violent bands that roamed Germany. A palpable yearning could be felt on all levels of society, from farm and factory workers to middle class businessmen and big-city intellectuals, for security and vengeance. The old guard of the Empire had never given up their positions of privilege and power, and no truly democratic government ever really grew strong enough to dislodge them. Arch-conservatives still held most of the leading positions in the army and navy, the universities, the civil service, and especially the courts. Long before Adolf Hitler entered politics, long before anti-semitism and antiliberalism had become battle cries for the Nazis, the Weimar Republic’s experiment in democracy and social tolerance was steadily  undermined by distrust, injustice, and violence. One is almost tempted to say that Hitler did not bring the Republic down; he merely saved it from suicide by murdering it himself. It was bankrupt long before he appointed himself as Germany’s saviour.

The social hurricane at the heart of the Weimar Republic was prompted and complicated by five factors: (1) fear of revolution; (2) racist and xenophobic paramilitary groups; (3) unprecedented inflation; (4) extreme unemployment; and (5) the Nazi party.

First, directly after World War I, many older people were frightened by the spectre of revolution. The Bolsheviks had accomplished it in Russia, and they had counted on the spreading of revolution in Europe to ensure their survival. The revolt in Munich in 1918 seemed to many to be but the opening shot in a class war. German newspapers were soon filled with hysterical reports of famine in the Ukraine. Many people feared that a Socialist triumph in Germany would doom the country to Russia’s plight.

Second, dozens of racist and virulently nationalistic groups began to flourish in this climate, each more fanatical than the other. Many participated in the civil strife that began to break out sporadically all over the country. These guerrilla skirmishes especially alienated those Germans (the majority, it is safe to say) who wanted an orderly society in which to live and work.

A third factor cracked open the thin walls of stability and did more than any other to destroy trust and hope: the mammoth inflation of 1922-23. In just sixteen months the German mark soared from 192 marks to the American dollar to a staggering 4.2 trillion marks to the dollar. The financial faith of the country was shattered beyond repair. The middle class lost its savings and its confidence in government. Persons on fixed incomes, such as pensions, war bonds, and annuities, found their dreams drowned in monetary quicksand. An incomprehensible economic sickness infected everyone, diminishing all salaries and gobbling up savings. Everywhere, pawnshops were packed, and relief rolls lengthened. The labour unions, too, in which many had put their trust, failed. Since the unions’ funds were gone, they could no longer resist the demands of employers: the ten-hour day returned to many industries. Unions began to lose members. Death and suicide rates rose; many children suffered from malnutrition. Those who had left the unions- and there were hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of them- found themselves politically adrift. Neither the left-wing Social Democratic Party (to which most labour unions belonged) nor the liberal or right wing parties offered any prescriptions to cure this epidemic.

That the middle classes and the workers lost faith in both the state and the economy is not surprising. When money loses its value, then government is robbed of its authority. As Alan Bullock, the distinguished British historian and biographer of Hitler, has observed, the “result of the inflation was to undermine the foundations of German society in a way that neither the war nor the revolution of 1918 nor the Treaty of Versailles had ever done. The real revolution in Germany was the inflation.” Berlin, the capital of the country, became the object of hatred for many Germans. A wave of anti-Berlin sentiment, always dormant on many levels of German society, swept through the provinces. Berlin, it was said, was different; it was evil, dominated by the Jews, homosexuals, Communists.

A fourth factor compounding the deepening crisis was the rapid rise in unemployment, especially after 1929 New York Stock Exchange crash, which toppled of half the financial institutions of Central Europe. Austrian banks collapsed first, then a number of leading German banks. In January 1930, the number of unemployed workers rose from 1.5 million to 3.2 million. Some  economists estimate the actual number to have been more than six million by 1933. Many of the unemployed were teenagers or their early twenties; they waited in endless lines before the welfare agencies to receive their meagre welfare stamps worth less than twenty dollars a month. On every corner, peddlers offered trinkets nobody wanted; street singers and itinerant musicians played endlessly in courtyards for people who could not afford to drop a few into their empty caps. Many young men, without hope, sullen and bewildered, were filled with a rage that knew no release. Many began to join the extremist parties of both the left and the right; many joined first the left, then the right. The promise of dramatic change suddenly made sense. Men were hungry too long, and now they were angry and desperate.

Into this social cauldron was added the fifth and most poisonous ingredient: the Nazi Party. As the numbers of unemployed rose, the Nazi membership rolls grew. To be sure, just before Franz von Papen maneuvered Hitler into the chancellorship in 1933, the Nazis had lost quite a few members. Still, the rise in unemployment and the growing strength of the Nazis were indissolubly linked. The Nazi Party not only provided food, weapons, a splendid uniform, it proclaimed a new purpose, a new faith, and a new prophet. Inflation and unemployment catapulted into power a man who promised rebirth to all “Aryan” Germans, regardless of status. Hitler vowed to avenge the injustices of the Treaty of Versailles, and to punish the culprits who had been responsible for Germany’s defeat. As was so often the case, Hitler’s rhetoric was littered with sexual metaphors. Jews and other minorities, for example, were guilty of the “syphilitization of our people.” In 1935, Nazi lawyer Hans Frank would warn that the “epidemic of homosexuality” was threatening the new Reich. America, too, was an enemy, a “niggerized Jewish country” where women painted their faces- a practice that enraged Nazi moralists. Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, would later boast that no Aryan woman he knew ever used lipstick. It was Himmler who would mastermind the attacks on homosexuals, whom he endowed with the same subhuman, dangerous qualities as were ascribed to Jews, Communists and Gypsies.

During the Weimar Republic, the homosexual subculture had managed an uneasy coexistence with the larger heterosexual society surrounding it. Of course, those in the spotlight – famous actors, designers, dancers, doctors, politicians, directors, and lawyers- had to live with a certain amount of abuse. But many had acquired power, money, and even connections to the Weimar government, which served as protection. The average gay man could live unnoticed and undisturbed unless he fell victim to police entrapment or blackmail. The average lesbian enjoyed a kind of legal immunity. During the Weimar years, organised lesbian costume balls were held; luxurious lesbian bars and nightclubs flourished. Their owners never feared a police raid. The reason: neither the Second German Empire nor the Weimar Republic had ever promulgated laws forbidding or punishing sexual acts between women. Lesbian magazines enjoyed healthy circulations, some even featuring personal ads, and a few lesbian plays achieved widespread popularity.

But the sexual tolerance so often associated with the Weimar republic began to disappear as rapidly as Germany’s economy began to crumble. (The unemployed are generally less tolerant of contragenics.) Germany, it must be remembered, had never been an ethnically pluralistic society. Almost all German churches were state churches. There were no large ethnic groups or religious sects other than the Jews, the Gypsies, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses-the latter relatively small in number. Homosexuals were an obvious, if largely invisible, scapegoat.

The years from 1929 to the end of the Weimar Republic were years of mounting tension. The Brown Shirts, or SA, under the leadership of Ernst Roehm, who was himself homosexual and would later be the target of Hitler’s wrath, became even more brutal and more repressively efficient. Hitler had promised Germany’s youth life as an endless military parade, replete with dashing insignia, badges, and banners. He invented special ranks for SA recruits and later for the SS. He proffered the vision of a brave, sunny world of soldiering for those who had given up hope. His enemies he threatened with war and extinction. They would be eliminated “ruthlessly” (his favourite word), and “heads would roll.” His various adversaries were united in nothing but blindness. Only when it was too late did some grasp that Hitler’s program of wholesale destruction would indeed be carried out, its scope widening year after year. The initial misreading of the implications of the Nazis’ policy of systematic violence was shared by almost all of those who were their victims: Union leaders, shrewd politicians of the centre and the right, Marxists, Jewish scientists, writers, lawyers, and, of course, homosexuals of all professions and educational levels. To be sure, a small minority did read the omens correctly and managed to leave Germany before it was too late; but many stayed behind to face their doom uncomprehendingly.


It is in this context that the successes and failures of the homosexual-rights movement in Germany must be measured. The movement began long before World War I, during the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II, but didn’t assume the proportions of a significant reform movement until the arrival of Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935). It would be hard to overestimate Hirschfeld’s importance. The attacks on his person and on his life’s work anticipate the wholesale horror that was to be unleashed once Hitler had consolidated his rule.

Hirschfeld, a Jew, a homosexual, and a physician, was a man possessed of enormous energy, imagination, and ambition. He became the leader of several psychological and medical organisations, the founder of a unique institute for sexual research, and the organiser of numerous international congresses dedicated to research on sexual matters and to the promotion of policies that would lead to an acceptance of homosexuals by society. In his celebrated study, Homosexuality in Men and Women, Hirschfeld optimistically declared that 90 percent of the German people would vote to repeal the nation’s antihomosexual laws if only they had a chance to learn the truth. His optimism would later prove to be unfounded, even after Hitler’s defeat in 1945. Hirschfeld’s motto was “Justice Through Knowledge.” He was not alone in his belief that progress could be made through the exercise of reason. Other doctors and psychiatrists, such as Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Albert Moll, and Alfred Adler, shared this belief even as they contested Hirschfeld’s ideas while respecting his research.

Consumed by a kind of a missionary zeal, Hirschfeld wrote book after book, polemic after polemic, pamphlet after pamphlet. His total output (nearly two hundred titles) is staggering: Natural Laws of Love (1912), Homosexuality in Men and Women (1918-20), and Sexual Knowledge, five volumes published from 1926 to 1930, are his major works. Most of the books were quite lengthy; for example, the second edition of Homosexuality in Men and Women stretches to more than one thousand pages. In addition, Hirschfeld composed scores of articles, book reviews, political pamphlets, and petitions to government agencies. He also founded the Yearbook for Intersexual Variants, which he edited until 1923, and was published, with a few interruptions, until 1932-33. The yearbooks addressed legal, historical, medical, and anthropological aspects of homosexuality. They presented lengthy discussions with psychiatrists who disputed Hirschfeld’s work. For a long time Hirschfeld had believed that Homosexual’s formed a third sex. (He would abandon this notion in 1910.) He considered the archetype of the totally masculine male and the totally feminine female as unchanging throughout history, a law of nature as firmly rooted in reality as the laws of mathematics. He was convinced that homosexuals constituted a biologically distinct gender- a human being between male and female. He devoted much thought to establishing fine differentiations within this third sex. (The “third sex” thesis, however, would inadvertently help the Nazis in their crusade against homosexuals, as will be explained below.)

Hirschfeld repeatedly tried to reform Germany’s laws, particularly the notorious Paragraph 175. This national law, enacted in 1871, stipulated that “A male who indulges in criminally indecent activities with another male or allows himself to participate in such activities will be punished with jail.” That such a law should have been passed is no surprise. Legal authorities in Germany had been obsessed with sexual practices for several centuries. In the seventeenth century, for instance, the German legalist Benedict Carpzow, in a legal commentary of 216 pages, condemned not only bestiality, masturbation, coprophilia, homosexuality, and intercourse with virgins, but sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews as well. Since the Jews were not human but animals, Carpzow reasoned, intercourse with them should properly fall under the legal category of the crime of sodomy-bestiality.

With the rise of the nation-state, homosexuality  was regarded as particularly dangerous, although, as James D Steakley points out in his important study on the origins of the homosexual emancipation movement, “In France, the revolutionary Constituent Assembly had enacted a penal code in 1791 that removed homosexuality from the list of punishable offenses. This action was reaffirmed in the Napoleonic code…”French thinking on this matter was to have a liberalizing influence on several German states, especially Bavaria. Even Prussia was not immune. Still, Eduard Henke, in his influential Handbook on Penal Policy (1830), asserted that “sodomy damages the state – to be sure indirectly, but still in a disadvantageous manner. For it renders those individuals who practice it incapable of fulfilling their duties as citizens for the purpose of the state. This is due to several reasons: active sodomites waste their procreative powers instead of producing future subjects for the state. They weaken themselves through their debaucheries, whereupon, first, they cannot serve the state properly; second, they will finally be unable to take care of themselves and thus become an additional financial burden to the government. Furthermore, their bad example corrupts other citizens. The state must vigorously oppose this vice in the interest of its other citizens.”

Others found this too harsh. Carl von Westphal, for example, published in 1869 what is probably the first psychiatric look at homosexuality. He wrote that homosexuality “occurs more frequently than is realised,” and thought it a problem more for medicine than for the state. He sought the repeal of Prussia’s antihomosexual laws, hoping that when “the spectre of prison no longer appear[s] as a threat to the confession of perverse inclinations, such cases will certainly come to the attention of doctors –in whose area they belong- in greater numbers.” His view found an echo in the work of Richard von Krafft-Ebing, the leading psychiatrist of the late nineteenth century. In his book The Deviant Sexual Male Before the Court of Justice (1894), he concluded: “Such degenerates have no right to existence in a well-regulated bourgeois society, and they have no gift for doing so. They endanger society to a high degree and they do so as long as they live. Medical science has found no way to cure these victims of an organic disturbance. They should be put away for life; however, they should not be branded as criminals –they are unfortunates, deserving pity.” At least Krafft-Ebing tempered his attitude with a measure of charity. Refusing to stigmatise homosexuals as criminals was some improvement from the common practice in the seventeenth century, when Germany imprisoned convicted homosexuals with pickpockets, murderers, thieves, and the “workshy.” Indeed, over the course of many years, there had been a marked lessening of the punishment prescribed for homosexuals.  In Prussia, the most homophobic of all the German states, homosexuals had risked burning at the stake until 1794, and imprisonment followed by banishment for life until 1837. Later, sanctions would be relaxed even further.

But only in Bavaria and three other German states (out of twenty-five) had a truly tolerant view prevailed. In 1813, under the combined influence of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and upon the urging of Anselm von Feuerbach, an influential liberal jurist, Bavaria liberalised all laws concerning sex, including those penalising homosexual acts between consenting adult males. Hannover followed suit a generation later, in 1840, when it repealed its antihomosexual legislation. But the old prejudices were ultimately to prove too strong. In the end, von Feuerbach recanted and reversed himself, condemning “indecencies of the coarser type, illicit licentiousness and bestiality.” In 1851, Prussia enacted Paragraph 143, which outlawed “unnatural sexual acts between men, and men and beasts,” and promised imprisonment for up to four years for violators. This law served as the legal basis for Paragraph 175, passed by the newly united Germany of 1871.

In 1898, Magnus Hirschfeld circulated a petition to abolish this law. He obtained the signatures of prominent writers, lawyers, politicians, and church dignitaries. The petition was discussed by the Reichstag and rejected. Only the Social Democratic Party, under the guidance of August Bebel, pleaded for reform. Most deputies were outraged and did not hide their abhorrence. All the old arguments of the past were marshalled: homosexuality corrupts a nation; it breaks the moral fibre of the citizens; its un-Germanic; it is connected with dangerously corrosive left-wing and Jewish elements (this from the right), or it is typical of the dissolute aristocracy and high bourgeoisie (this from the left). Above all, the spread of homosexual behaviour would lead to Germany’s decline, just as it had always spearheaded the ruin of great empires. Such arguments, recycled and sometimes imbued with Himmler’s special brand of crackpot fanaticism, would later reappear in numerous Nazi directives.

Despite the setback in 1898, Hirschfeld refused to give up. Soon afterward, he issued one of his many pleas for understanding; an appeal entitled What People Should Know About the Third Sex. By the outbreak of World War I, more than fifty thousand copies had been distributed. Hirschfeld’s tireless efforts, while in many respects enlightened, nevertheless did much to establish the notion of homosexuals as a medically defined, vulnerable, and official minority. Like many turn-of-the-century psychiatrists, he wanted legal punishments to be replaced by treatment of patients who deserved to be pitied and helped rather than censured and ignored. He followed the conventions of his time when he sought the key to homosexuality by measuring the circumferences of male pelvises and chests in an attempt to define a physiologically recognisable “third sex”. Only after the Nazis had turned his lifework into ashes did he concede that, on the one hand, he had failed to prove that homosexuals were characterised distinct and measurable biological and physiological qualities and that, on the other hand, he unwittingly deepened popular prejudices by endowing male homosexuals with “feminine” characteristics. This had only served to confirm the prevailing assumption that because homosexuals were “not really men,” they were therefore inferior.

The notion of homosexuals as “basically different” permitted the left as well as the right to revile them whenever it was politically expedient to do so. The very word homosexual could be used as an epithet and a term of opprobrium. For example, Hirschfeld’s main political ally, the Social Democrats, deserted him during a famous scandal that rocked Germany during the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Alfred Krupp, who had refused to sign the Hirschfeld petition, was heir to the giant munitions fortune. Wealthy, right wing, moving among the nobility, he had been caught with a few young men on the island of Capri and in a Berlin hotel. He committed suicide a week later. The Social Democratic newspapers could not pass up the chance to twit the upper class, just as, years later, they could not resist exploiting the revelations about the homosexual activities of Hitler’s deputy, Ernst Roehm, chief of the SA. In the Krupp affair, the party’s hacks revelled in phrases like “capitalist culture in garish colours,” “fateful errors of nature,” “gratifications of a certain sickness.” Similar phrases were served up during an even more notorious and publicised affair, that of Prince Philipp von Eulenburg and Count Kuno von Moltke, both members of the Emperor’s inner circle. Hirschfeld’s hopes for sexual tolerance would founder the moment accusations of homosexual conduct were used to blacken an opponent’s reputation.

The rank and file of the two labour parties (Communist and Social Democratic) probably did not care one way or the other what happened to homosexuals. The leaders, however, wanted to have it both ways. Officially, they fought to overturn Paragraph 175, and when speaking before special legislative committees or in the Reichstag, they often voted for Hirschfeld’s petition, which, by 1913, had been debated five times by special councils. But in the sordid world of party rivalry, the charge of homosexuality was a useful weapon.

Among those who repeatedly rose to speak on Hirschfeld’s behalf was August Bebel, the respected leader of the Social Democratic Party. As early as 1898, he had taken the petition to the floor of the Reichstag. He argued that because so many gays were to be found in all levels of society, the government would have to build countless new jails if the police were actually to prosecute every violation of Paragraph 175. When he encountered acute opposition from the Catholic Centre Party, Bebel pointed out that thousands of people from all walks of life were probably homosexual. Should the truth of this social reality be known, he emphasized, the ensuing scandal would make the Dreyfus affair look like “kid stuff.” Bebel’s remarks were virtually ignored by his aristocratic and middle class fellow legislators in the Reichstag.

Like Anselm von Feuerbach before him, Bebel also favoured a more conservative position. In his famous study, Women and Socialism (1883), Bebel sounded the by now standard view that sexual indulgence inevitably leads to impotence, spinal paralysis, and idiocy. Young men, he wrote, today age prematurely, become “roués,” and demand ever new forms of titillation. True, some people are homosexuals from birth, but others indulge in it because it offers new thrills. Bebel called it “Greek love,” which included “Sappho’s love,” prevalent among the better classes of Berlin and Paris, and among prostitutes. In a footnote added in the 1907 edition, Bebel paid tribute to the von Eulenburg-von Moltke scandal and suggested that homosexuality was more frequent among the military and the upper middle class- thus confounding his earlier view that love among men reached equally into every sector of society.

The same confused mix of liberal sentiment and traditional intolerance is exemplified by Bebel’s contemporary, Eduard Bernstein, the prominent theoretician and right wing socialist, a man bitterly attacked for his revisionism. In the Social Democratic Party’s theoretical magazine Neue Zeit, Bernstein covered the Oscar Wilde trial (1895), and later wrote a revealingly muddled commentary on homosexuals. He begins by expressing his disapproval of the spirit of decadence, so apparent in Wilde’s circles. He discovers in this spirit an affinity to Baudelaire and French aestheticism. Still, he repeatedly deplores those who would use the word “unnatural” (widernaturlich) for Wilde’s activities. He pleads against punishment of people attracted to their own sex. Yet he speculates that homosexual activities probably begin when heterosexual outlets are unavailable. A few lines later he challenges the popular notion that Greece fell because of pederasty. He recognises that throughout history the treatment of women and sexual minorities stems from the same sociocultural perception. He acknowledges that punitive proceedings against homosexual acts are carried out rarely, perhaps in only one out of a hundred cases. He approvingly quotes Richard von Krafft-Ebing to the effect that homosexuality is a sign of pathological disturbance, that it should not be punished, and that it is not always the consequence of a hedonistic, thrill-seeking life-style. What most people think about such sexual practices does not matter to Bernstein; most people are prisoners of ancient prejudice. Toward the end of the essay, he seeks a connection between the structure of society and the development of homosexuality. He writes that “as long as social conditions, which, so to speak, threaten natural sexual pleasure with punishment, as long as our entire way of life does constant injury to the requirements of health and body and spirit- then so long will abnormal sexual intercourse not cease. On the contrary, it will reveal a tendency to become the norm.” Therefore, he concludes, homosexuality is but a symptom of “our entire way of life.” It does not arise from a lack of discipline; it is rooted in a defective society.

In Bernstein we encounter the Marxist version of the theory of “degeneracy,” only the emphasis has shifted. Conservative German legislators, politicians, and clergymen had always insisted that homosexuality inevitably brought about the dissolution of marriage, the decline of morals, and the ruin of the body politic. Marxists, on the other hand, had generally regarded homosexuality as a consequence of the antisexual, repressive nature of society; homosexuals were, so to speak, not the pathogenic agents of the “fatal disease” but its victims.

Marx and Engels, unfortunately, were not of much help in guiding the average socialist of the period through the thicket of these contending theories. None of their major published works addresses in a systematic manner the problem of homosexuality. Repeatedly, Marx and Engels analysed the structure of the nuclear family and the change in the family’s role brought about by capitalism. They regarded sexual phenomena only within the framework of their materialism. However, Marx and Engels express themselves quite candidly in their correspondence. There they occasionally crack jokes about “warm brothers,” a derogatory German phrase for homosexuals. They entertain each other with vitriolic sketches of allies and enemies.

In 1896 a quarrel erupted at the Universal Congress of German Workers held in Eisenach. Here the Social Democratic Party was founded; its platform and bylaws were formulated. The essential features had been worked out beforehand by August Bebel. But followers of the populist leader Ferdinand Lassalle, headed by Jean-Baptiste von Schweitzer, tried to sabotage the congress. Thirty-four years before, von Schweitzer, a lawyer, had been indicted for “public indecency” with a boy and had been jailed. Engels, recalling this incident, used it to make a number of acid remarks about the effeminate disciples of Lassalle who were threatening to wreck the congress. And, in a letter to Marx discussing a book by Karl Heinnrich Ulrichs (1825-95), an early pioneer of homosexual emancipation, Engels wrote:

The pederasts start counting their numbers and discover they are a powerful group in our state. The only thing missing is an organisation, but it seems to exist already, though it is hidden. And since they can count on important personalities, in all old and even new parties, their victory is assured. Now the motto will be “war against the frontal orifices, peace to those behind.” How lucky we are that we are both too old – otherwise we might have to submit personally to the victors. But the younger generation! Really, it can only happen in Germany, that such a no-good can transform lechery into a theory and invite us to “enter.” Unfortunately, he hasn’t the courage to openly confess what he is and is forced to operate in full view of the public, though not “frontally” as he once called it by mistake. But just you wait until the North German legislation has recognised the “rights of the behind,” then he’ll sing another tune. We poor frontal fellows with our childish passion for women, will have a bad time.

Despite such bigoted witticisms in the correspondence between Engels and Marx, the Bolsheviks were to take a forthright stand in favour of homosexual rights when they took power in 1917. They quickly abolished the Tsarist antihomosexual laws two months after the storming of the Winter Palace. Only under Stalin in 1934 were antihomosexual laws reintroduced. Until then, Communist parties hewed to the liberal Soviet stance. The German Communist Party’s official position toward homosexuality was clearly summed up by one of its more prominent lawyers, Felix Hale:

The class-conscious proletariat, uninfluenced by the ideology of property and freed from the ideology of the churches, approaches the question of sex life and also the problem of homosexuality with a lack of prejudice afforded by an understanding of the overall social structure…. In accordance with the scientific insights of modern times, the proletariat regards these relations as a special form of sexual gratification and demands the same freedom and restrictions for these forms of sex life as for intercourse between the sexes, i.e., protection of the sexually immature from attacks…. Control over one’s own body, and finally respect for the rights of non-involved parties.

As we have seen, however, this enlightened official attitude was often considerably diluted in the party’s propaganda; the Communists did not hesitate to tar their enemies with the charge of homosexuality if they thought that doing so would weaken them in the public’s eyes. Ultimately the Marxist message rang loud and clear: problems of sex are secondary to the contradictions of class; they have no enduring relevance for society’s workers; they will disappear come the revolution.

Before World War I the Social Democrats were the only political party willing to assist Hirschfeld in his struggle toreform Paragraph 175 and educate the German people about homosexuality. Although the party had wavered during the Krupp affair, and would betray Hirschfeld’s cause during later scandals, whenever this was thought to be politically advantageous, it nevertheless backed him during the parliamentary debates over Paragraph 175, which took place until 1927-29.


In 1903, after the storm over Krupp had calmed down, Hirschfeld and his Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, founded in 1897, initiated something unprecedented: they distributed 6,611 questionnaires on contemporary sex habits and attitudes to Berlin factory workers and university students. The results, published in the 1904 Yearbook for Intersexual Variants, surprised everybody but Hirschfeld, as he was happy to point out. On the basis of the data he had gathered, Hirschfeld concluded that 2.2 percent of Germany’s males were homosexual, or about 1.2 million men. (One must regard these statistics with some scepticism. Berlin had long maintained a greater degree of hospitality toward homosexuals than had most other German cities. By 1914 there were about forty gay bars in the city. And the Berlin police, according to Steakley, “had a tradition of tolerance toward homosexuality which reached back to the eighteenth century.” Thus, there may have existed in Berlin not only a greater willingness on the part of homosexuals to profess their sexual preference openly, but also a greater proportion of the city’s population may have been homosexual than that of the country as a whole.)

Hirschfeld’s statistics were of no help in the Reichstag debate. In 1905 another attempt to reform Paragraph 175 was soundly beaten. Only August Bebel again dared to raise his voice in favour of total revision. Hirschfeld may have been a pioneer – after all, he probably initiated the first statistical sexual survey, nearly half a century before Kinsey- but he soon committed a political blunder. Asked to give psychiatric testimony in court during the Eulenburg proceedings, he let himself be persuaded to testify that one of the members of the Emperor’s cabinet, Kuno von Moltke, was, in his professional opinion, a genuine homosexual. This mistake undid years of hard work. Prominent members of the committee deserted it, and the movement splintered.

Fortunately, Hirschfeld found some unexpected allies in the women’s emancipation movement. The most active organisation was the League for the Protection of Maternity and Sexual Reform, founded in 1905. Its guiding spirit was Dr, Helene Stoecker (1869-1943), an indefatigable organiser, as unswervingly optimistic as Hirschfeld,, who joined Hirschfeld’s committee in order to squelch attempts to make sexual relations between women a criminal offence.  (The laws were never passed.)  Stoecker believed, and wrote in various articles, that it was senseless to punish homosexual acts. A bond was established between the women’s movement and the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee when Stoecker became one of the committee’s directors. Nazi propagandists would later stress that activities for the emancipation of women and for the repeal of antihomosexual laws were part of one invisible conspiracy. This, of course, was rubbish. What was true was the rather sudden appearance around the turn of the century of a number of independent sexual reform movements, including the movement for women’s suffrage, which held its first big demonstration in Berlin in 1894. In the early twenties, a number of homosexual associations sprang up in Breslau, Frankfurt, Lubeck, and other large cities. Hirschfeld had tried unsuccessfully to unite them under one umbrella organisation, but internecine squabbles made unity a mirage. Nevertheless, cooperation among some of the movements grew over time as natural affinities came to be recognised.

While Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee was the largest and most influential group within the homosexual rights movement (it had one thousand members in 1914), there were others as well - for example, the Committee of the Special, founded in 1902. Headed by Benedict Friedlander and Adolph Brand, it maintained that relations between older men and younger men had contributed to the “glory of Greece”- a theory that Hirschfeld opposed. Friedlander and Brand sought to refashion the image of the homosexual man as even more masculine and athletic than the heterosexual. The ancient Greeks were cited repeatedly; it was asserted that sexual friendship between soldiers had made Sparta’s armies nearly invincible. The vision of a constructive, overtly masculine society, bonded by homoerotic ties, was pursued by Hans Bluher (1888-1952) in two controversial books: The German youth Movement as an Erotic Phenomenon (1912) and The Role of Eroticism in Male Society (1917). Bluher, originally a follower of Freud, later turned to the anti-Semitic right. He, too, ridiculed the idea of a “third sex” and adopted a contrary position. Throughout history, he wrote, the soldierly, aggressive homosexual male had fought wars, conquered nations, founded empires. Frequently he not only had a wife but kept a male lover as well. Despite Bluher’s later embrace of the right, the Nazis did not hesitate to attack him vehemently, once they came to power. The Wandervogel movement, already riven by factionalism, was embarrassed by Bluher, and insisted that he had exaggerated the homoerotic component. In the end, the Youth Movement was first absorbed and then destroyed by Hitler Youth leaders, when its “decadent” and “elitist” homoeroticism succumbed to the “racially productive” blood-and-soil philosophy of the Nazis.

Today Bluher’s ideas may seem like pop Freudianism, spiced with homosexual imperialism and Black Forest romanticism, but to many gay Germans in the Youth Movement before World War I who felt uncomfortable at being branded as a “third sex,” Bluher’s views helped to impart a sense of being acceptable as men among men.

Hirschfeld’s major achievement was to establish the Institute for Sexual Research, which opened its doors to the public on 1st July, 1919. He amassed a unique library of twenty thousand volumes- an incomparable collection of rare anthropological, medical, legal, and social documents. He also gathered some 35,000 photographs. He employed four physicians and several assistants, and provided various research facilities. He welcomed scientists from all over the addition, the attending physicians offered various kinds of sexual counselling- a practice that was considered radically reformist. His doctors also tested and treated people for venereal diseases, charging minimal fees and giving advice on abortion procedures. Eventually, Hirschfeld relinquished charge of the institute to Kurt Hiller (1885-1972), a lawyer and left wing anti-Marxist journalist. In the 1920s a branch of the institute was set up in Amsterdam. It functioned until May 1940, when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands.

Hirschfeld’s triumphant moment may have arrived in September 1921, when he organised the First Congress for Sexual Reform. Experts came from all over the world to discuss such topics as genetics, sexology, and the law. The congress was such a success that Hirschfeld was emboldened to create the World League for Sexual Reform, which at its height claimed a membership of 130,000.

Nobody has written more vividly about the institute than Christopher Isherwood, especially in his memoir Christopher and His Kind (1976). For a time, Isherwood lived in one of the upper rooms of the institutes buildings. Photographs in the institute’s collection depicting the sexual organs of hermaphrodites shocked him, as did the drawings of one of Hirschfeld’s psychotic patients, in which phalluses reigned and strange couplings took place.  Isherwood reveals a more complicated reality than the one he had described earlier in Goodbye to Berlin (1939), in which he presented a gravely distorted vision of a city peopled by rough working men, charmed by the handsome writer from England. In 1976, Isherwood acknowledged certain brutal realities: that Hirschfeld had repeatedly been beaten up by right wing thugs, and that he barely escaped an assassination attempt in Vienna. What Isherwood doesn’t mention is the abuse Hirschfeld suffered at the hands of the right wing press whenever he lectured. After one physical assault, for example, a Nazi paper sneered: “It is not without charm to know that…. Hirschfeld was so beaten that his eloquent mouth could never again be kissed by one of his disciples.”  Das Schwarze Korps, the official propaganda sheet of the SS, and Hitler’s personal newspaper, the Volkischer Beobacther, were particularly vicious. They usually varied three invectives in several combinations: Hirschfeld, the Jewish homosexual commie pervert, masquerading as a scientist, seeks only one aim- to permit homosexuality to flourish, which would mean fewer babies, and thus the German nation would be weakened.

However, neither the Nazi propaganda sheets nor the few liberal papers that took a more benevolent view of Hirschfeld had as much impact on the majority of Germans as did the mainstream yellow press. There his institute was lumped together with transvestite nightclubs, houses of prostitution, gay bars, and general rot in Berlin. The capital was Sodom anyhow, it was said; a city where bureaucrats swindled decent people out of money, a city without a soul, a city controlled by Jews and perverts. People in small provincial towns came to loathe Berlin as a centre of corruption.  Whatever opinions they might have held about Hirschfeld’s committee weren’t helped by a clumsily produced film about homosexual blackmail, Different from the Others, released in 1919. It starred Conrad Veidt (who became famous a year later for his portrayal of the somnambulist in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari) and, in a small part Magnus Hirschfeld. The film was banned in Munich, Stuttgart, and Vienna. In 1927 it was rereleased, but Hirschfeld’s part was cut out. Moreover, the problems of belonging to a “third sex” must not have seemed very compelling to the vast majority of heterosexual Germans struggling to cope with unemployment and inflation.

The film, however, was of minor importance for the homosexual rights movement compared with the shocking murders that occurred in Hannover in 1923 and 1924, culminating in the trial of a certain Fritz Haarmann. Simply put, it was a disaster for Hirschfeld’s and the committee’s effort s to liberalise the law. It splintered the movement irreparably, fed every prejudice against homosexuality, and provided new fodder for conservative adversaries of legal sex reform. In addition, it pitted the Social Democrats, unwillingly, against the Communist Party. Most historians of the Weimar Republic have neglected the trial. But Haarmann dominated the headlines for months, and the passions he aroused did much to weaken the struggle to abolish Paragraph 175.

The trial took place during July 1924 in Hanover, a medium sized northern city, a place known as much for its black market as for its huge number of prostitutes and hustlers. Interestingly enough, Hanover had been the birthplace of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, who, it will be recalled, had been among the first in the nineteenth century to urge greater tolerance toward homosexuals, writing over the course of many years a dozen books that were collectively titled Researches on the Riddle of Love Between Men. Until 1869, when the stringent Prussian penal code was extended, Hanover was one of the handful of German states that did not punish homosexuality.

Fritz Haarmann, a homosexual small time crook who had spent most of his life in and out of insane asylums and prisons, sold second hand clothing and jewellery and third-rate food, mostly meat. He also acted as a police informer, which, for a time, saved him from being suspected of a series of spectacular murders. It was Haarmann’s habit to pick up (“for interrogation”) destitute youngsters at Hannover’s railroad station or some other centre of the black market. He then took them to one of his ever-changing slum apartments near the banks of the Leine River. He murdered some, but others he let go. Of those he killed, he cut off head and limbs, severed the flesh, fed it through a grinder, and sold it in small, well wrapped packages as horsemeat. The black market absorbed all this until too many skulls and bones were found washed up on the banks of the Leine River. As more details were uncovered, it emerged that Haarmann not only carried a police badge but had founded his own phony detective story. Haarmann, though a psychopath of low intelligence and no grasp of reality, did possess a shrewd talent for deceit, and he had actually assisted the police in solving several crimes.

He confessed readily. He did not recall details, names, faces. He remembered that sometimes, overcome by sexual rage, he bit through his victims’ throats –and thus ancient tales of werewolves and vampires were thrown into the legal proceedings. Altogether, criminologists and pathologists reconstructed 147 cases of missing persons. Hirschfeld was called from Berlin as an expert witness, but he never wrote about the case. Conservative businessman Friedrich Radzuweit, head of the League for Human Rights, did. He sent a letter to the leading newspapers in which he strongly protested “the yellow press which tried to identify homosexuals with this feebleminded criminal… The homosexual minority in our nation emphatically rejects these insulting remarks which equate homosexuality with criminality.” Haarmann admitted to 127 murders and asked to be executed. He alternated between crying and cajoling, and pleaded insanity. The court sentenced him to death.

Journalists were admonished to ply everything down; the Hanover officials wanted no panic. Reporters were also encouraged not to investigate the role of the police. It was on this point that the Communists unleashed an avalanche of criticism against the hated Social Democrats. The post of police commissioner of Hanover was held by Gustav Noske, who, years before, had beaten back left wing demonstrators by using Reichswehr and re Crops troops. Officially, Gustav Noske was a Social Democrat, but he had acted with a vengeance that the radical labour rebels never forgave. He was hated as much as superior, Karl Severing, the Prussian minister of the interior, and also a Social Democrat. Altogether, Severing and Noske had put behind bars about seven thousand workers. When the local Communist paper, the Niedersachische Arbeiterzeitung, began to reveal the net of police connections Haarmann had established as a stool pigeon, its circulation jumped from 8,000 to 35,000. As soon as Noske returned from vacation, he had the newspaper declared injurious to public safety and banned it. In Berlin, the Communist Rote Fahne protested “energetically the ban of the workers’ newspaper… It remains a scandal that the police hire such criminal stool pigeons, using them against our party…. It has been proven that the campaign against the Communist Party… has been led by stool pigeons of the Haarmann type…. We demand the resignation of Police Commissioner Noske… We demand the release of all victims of the Severing-Noske-Haarmann police.” The Rote Fahne then went on to speak of “Haar-men,” which meant the sadistic policemen who had attacked the Communist workers, and declared that “since no sane man would stoop to work for the Haarmann-police, the system is forced to hire its tools and agents from the underworld… abnormal, perverted, sick people… the entire system is truly characterised by a mass murderer and cannibal such as Haarmann.” Later the Communists used expressions such as “homosexual sadists” to condemn the police, and demanded that “the police be purged of monarchist, sadist, homosexual, and fascist elements.” The equation of homosexuals with criminals ran counter to the official policy of the party. But in their fervour to get even with the despised Social Democrats, the Communists did not hesitate to put the stigma of sadism, brutality, and cannibalism on all homosexuals. The pitch of public hysteria mounted. Many mothers now panicked when their children did not return on time from school, which was all the more understandable because the police had begun arresting child-murderers in other cities as well. In Berlin high schools, a grim ditty made the rounds:

Wait with patience, little mouse,
Fritz will soon come to your house,
With his axe so sharp and neat,
He’ll make you into red chopped meat.

Hirschfeld’s appearance as an expert during the Haarmann trial seems only to have deepened the public’s animosity towards his committee. It infuriated the Nazis. That the main vehicles for sexual reform – the Scientific Humanitarian Committee and the Institute for Sexual Research- were founded by Magnus Hirschfeld, a Social Democrat, a Jew and a homosexual, and that Kurt Hiller, his administrative successor, and many other members were Jewish and liberal made it easy for Hitler’s  early followers to vilify all efforts to abolish Paragraph 175. As early as 1920, Joseph Goebbels’s weekly Der Angriff had expressed its malevolence after Hirschfeld was beaten following a lecture in Munich. The newspaper praised the students for the “sound thrashing” administered to Hirschfeld. Seven years later, Wilhelm Frick, a lawyer, later famous for drafting the anti-Jewish Nuremburg laws in 1935, denounced the Social Democrats on the floor of the Reichstag; “Your party, at its last convention, has demanded the repeal of all laws concerning adultery and homosexuality, and you seem to believe that this will contribute to the moral regeneration of the German nation. We National Socialists are convinced, on the contrary, that men practicing unnatural lechery between men must be persecuted with utmost severity. Such vices will lead to the disintegration of the German people.” When, in 1929, the Social Democrats and the Communists had succeeded in getting a crucial parliamentary committee to vote in favour of bringing before the Reichstag a bill to strike down Paragraph 175, Hitler’s official newspaper wrote:

We congratulate you, Mr Hirschfeld, on the victory in committee. But don’t think that we Germans will allow these laws to stand for a single day after we have come to power…. Among the many evil instincts that characterise the Jewish race, one that is especially pernicious has to do with sexual relationships. The Jews are forever trying to propagandise sexual relations between siblings, men and animals and men and men. We National Socialists will soon unmask and condemn them by law. These efforts are nothing but vulgar, perverted crimes and we will punish them by banishment or hanging.

Perhaps the Nazi Party’s most explicit statement on homosexuality is the one it published on May 14th 1928, in response to a query about its stance toward reform of Paragraph 175. It is worth quoting in full:

It is not necessary that you and I live, but it is necessary that the German people live. And it can only live if it can fight, for life means fighting. And it can only fight if it maintains its masculinity. It can only maintain its masculinity if it exercises discipline, especially in matters of love. Free love and deviance are undisciplined. Therefore, we reject you, as we reject anything that harms are nation.
Anyone who thinks of homosexual love is our enemy. We reject anything which emasculates our people and makes it a plaything for our enemies, for we know that life is a fight, and it is madness to think that men will ever embrace fraternally. Natural history teaches us the opposite. Might makes right. The strong will always win over the weak. Let us see to it that we once again became strong! But this we can achieve only in one way- the German people must once again learn how to exercise discipline. We therefore reject any form of lewdness, especially homosexuality, because it robs us of our last chance to free our people from the bondage which now enslaves it.

Despite these attacks, the effort to reform Paragraph 175 continued, albeit fitfully, until the end of 1929, when the Nazis gained 107 seats in the Reichstag, making parliamentary reform impossible.

On January 30th, 1933, Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany. On February 23rd pornography was banned along with homosexual rights organisations. As luck would have it, Hirschfeld was out of the country on a lecture trip. On March 7th the SS burst into and searched Kurt Hiller’s apartment. On March 23rd he was arrested and packed off to the concentration camp at Oranienburg, near Berlin. Nine months later, incredibly, he was released. He made his way first to Prague and then to London. Hiller’s arrest and incarceration was the opening salvo in the Nazi campaign to rid Germany of its homosexuals. On May 6th the full frenzy of hate was unleashed. The target: Hirschfeld’s Institute of Sexual Research, condemned by the Nazis as “the international centre of the white slave trade” and “an unparalleled breeding ground of dirt and filth.” A band of about one hundred young fanatics descended upon the institute, smashing everything they could lay their hands on. They confiscated more than twelve thousand books and the precious collection of photographs. Four days later, in a public ceremony, these were burned. The crowd roared approval, especially after somebody threw in a bust of Hirschfeld.

By the summer of 1933, Ernst Roehm’s SA goons were raiding gay bars throughout Germany. Many were closed, but others didn’t shutter their doors until 1935. That was the year when that was the year when the campaign against homosexuals shifted into high gear and the new Nazi laws banning such gathering places and outlawing homosexuals as “sexual vagrants” went into effect. As for Hirschfeld, he died of heart failure on May 14th, 1935- his sixty-seventh birthday.

After years of frustration, Nazi totalitarianism brought to the disenfranchised masses a stable, rigidly structured society and bread and circuses. Hitler’s storm troopers now had their opportunity to smash their enemies: the lame, the mute, the feebleminded, the epileptic, the homosexual, the Jew, the Gypsy, the Communist. These were the scapegoats, singled out for persecution. These were the “contragenics” who were to be ruthlessly eliminated to ensure the purity of the “Aryan race.” At last, shops could be looted with impunity and people could be beaten up, all in the name of the Fuhrer’s new laws.

To the rampaging fascist gangs, the Jews were money grubbing subhumans.  Many Germans knew this stereotype to be untrue. But hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, wanted to believe it, or at least did not protest when the Nuremburg laws of 1935 deprived Germany’s Jews of their citizenship and turned them into legal targets for persecution. Homosexuals were less easy to scapegoat and harass. Unlike the Jews, they could not be readily identified and registered- which enabled many homosexuals to “pass” undetected during the twelve years of the Third Reich.

At first the Nazi attacks against homosexuals were interpreted by many gays solely as prompted by anti-Semitism, directed at Hirschfeld and Hiller. Just as many Jews, even after the Nuremburg laws of 1935, still hoped that “things would quiet down,” that Hitler would not carry out the methodical oppression he had threatened since 1925, the year Mein Kampf was published, most homosexuals too did not read the danger signals correctly. Perhaps some found reason for optimism in the widely known fact that one of the most influential Nazi leaders, Ernst Roehm, was himself a homosexual. Perhaps it was thought that Roehm would offer protection. If so, it was an exceedingly dangerous delusion. For it would not be long before Hitler would order Roehm’s murder and the massacre of the SA’s leadership. What this bloody purge meant for Germany’s homosexuals needs now to be understood.




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