The rear entrance to the bunker where Hitler’s body was found, after he committed suicide on April 30, 1945. (Wikimedia Commons – photo)
The German novelist Thomas Mann was first published in The Nation in September 1923, when the magazine’s drama critic Ludwig Lewisohn—an enthusiastic Jewish popularizer of modern German literature—translated Mann’s story “Die Hungernden” as “Hungry Souls.” After Hitler rose to power in 1933, Mann and his family relocated to Switzerland, and then to the United States in 1939. Even before that, however, The Nation published essays by Mann on world politics, including “I Accuse the Hitler Regime” and “I Stand With the Spanish People,” both in 1936, and “The Coming Humanism” in the magazine’s series on Living Philosophies in 1938. Hitler committed suicide with Eva Braun in a Berlin bunker on this day 70 years ago, and the end of the war in Europe came a week later. Picking through the wreckage of his beloved Germany, Mann wrote the following “Address to the German People” published in the Nation of May 12, 1945. Curiously, an editor’s note said the piece was prepared by Mann in California and “transmitted by the Office of War Information.”
The thick-walled torture chamber that Hitlerism had made of Germany is broken open, and our disgrace is bared to the eyes of the world. Foreign commissions who have been shown these incredible scenes report home that the horrors they have seen exceed anything that men could imagine. It is our disgrace, German readers and listeners, for every German—everyone who speaks German, writes German, has lived as a German—is affected by this shameful exposure. It is not a small clique of criminals who are involved; hundreds of thousands of a so-called German Elite—men, youths, and brutish women—committed these misdeeds in morbid lust under the influence of the insane doctrines of National Socialism. Call it the dark potentialities of human nature in general that are revealed here, but remember that it was Germans, hundreds of thousands of them, who revealed those potentialities. The world shudders at the sight of Germany. Even the German who escaped in ample time from the realm of National Socialist leadership, who did not like to live in the vicinity of these abodes of abomination, did not like to go about his business in ostensible virtue and pretend to know nothing while the wind carried the stench of charred human flesh to his nostrils—even this German is ashamed in the depths of his soul for the things that were possible in the land of his fathers and his masters….
Power is lost, but power is not everything. It is not even the main thing. And German greatness was never a matter of power. It was once German and may be German again to win respect and admiration by the human contribution, by the power of the sovereign spirit.
May 12, 1945
characteristic Geneva solution. It confronted he conference with a choice between a sterile legalistic formula and actual- ities. The fmr was preferred, and great-power unlty breached.
Mr.Stettiniws refused, even after Mr Spaak’s statesman-lke plea, to consent to the Russlan request for postponement. We won a dlplomatic victory that was a moral defeat and may be the beglnning of a serious rift in the big-power unanimity wlth whch the conference began and which s the essential condtion of peace. England and Holland seem to have been our only European supporters In
this’; even China abstained. The American consultants were told that Argentina was a 5 5
special case whose admission was required by the Chapd- tepec conference. But the psincjples
laid down by the Latin American delegates in the debate“‘universa1ity” of the new organization and “non-intervention” in tbe internal af- fairs of states applying for membership-lay the basis for the adtnisslon of Franco Spain. Just as the Germans whittled away the Versailles settlement piecemeal, so the process has begun of whittling away the anti-fascist character of the United Nations: there wdl be new legalistic reasons for ew compromlses with fascism. That is not the way to maintain an entente with the USR.
or the stable peace an entente would make possible.
Address to the German People BY THOMAS MANN
This s an actual message to the German people broadcast to them in the hour o Nazzsrn’J catastrophzc defeat.
It was prepured by Germany’s mortdzrtzn-gutshed scholav in exile and ransmttfed by the Ofice
o War Information.
Santa Monlca Cal. May 0 have survIved, the pitlable remnants of the multitudes of innocent men, women, and children who were sent to German concentration camps. Most of them suffered a horrlble death, many at the last moment before the arrival of salvation, their emaciated corpses and charred
bones were found along wlth the ingenlous contrlvances which served for their extermmatlon. It
s a solace to know that these few have been wrested from he power of their tormentors and returned to he laws of humanity.
or the German, however qulte different emotlons are mingled with this feelmg of relief. The thckwalled torture chamber that Hltlerlsm had made of Germany is broken open, and our dlsgrace s bared to the eyes of the world. Foreign commissions who have been shown these lncredlble scenes report home that the horrors they have seen exceed anything that men could imagine.
It is our dlsgrace, German readers and Ilsteners, for every German”everyone who speaks German, wrltes German, has lived as a German-1s affected by this shameful expos- ure.
It is not a small clique of criminals who are Involved; hundreds of thousands of a so-called German eh-men, youths, and brutlsh women-commltted hese mlsdeeds in morbid lust under the Influence of the insane doctrlnes of National Sociallsm. Call It the dark potentialitles of human nature in general that are revealed here, but remember that it was Germans, hundreds of thousands of them, who revealed those potentiallties. The world shudders at the sight of Germany. Even the German who escaped in ample time from the realm of Natlonal Socialist leadershlp, who did not like to live in the vicinlty of these abodes of abomina- tion, did not ike to go about hls business in ostenslble v~r- tue and pretend to know nothing- while the wmd carrted the stench of charred human flesh to his nostrilcven hs German is ashamed in the depths of his soul or the things that were possible
In the land of hls fathers and his masters. It comes as a sho k to such a German that in the twelve years of the Hltler regime one thing only, Nazi rule, could induce such human depravity in
a people certainly not by nature devoid of justice and morality. One of the last commentators
on the Goebbels radlo, a man named Fritsche, shouted into the micrqhone hat nothing could alter the fact that National Social~sm was “the only appropriate form of government for the German people” and that Germany was made for this regime.
This he dared to sap to people who full of dire foreboding, had lived for more than decade under National Socialism and who now amid the ruins of their counixy, confronted a catastrophe the like
of which neither their own nor any ohcr hlstory has ever witnessed.
The “only appropriate form of government” for the German people led them in ust a few years into
not only the most terrlble but also the most disgraceful defeat; so that Germany stands today as the abominatlon of man- kind and the epitome of evil. Justice and trut strangled falsehood relgning supreme, liiberty trampled, character and decency crushed, people drilled from childhood in
the blasphemous delusion of raclal superiority, in he prllmacy and rlght of violence, educated for nothing but covetousness, rape, and looting-that was National Socialism. That is supposed to be
“German,” the “only form of government ppropriate to he German nature.”
My readers and listeners in Germany, you were unable to rid yourselves of this rule by your own trengbh. The litberabrs had to come from abroad. They have occupied your broken country and WU have o govern it for years. At least do not regard them as your enemies, as Bishop Galen lncltes you to do.
o not Ilke this ill-advised cleric, regard yourselves pnmanly as Germans, but as men and women returned to humanity as Germans who after twelve years of Hltkr want to be human beings again. Power is lost but power is not everything. It IS not even the main thlng. An8 German greatness
was never a matter of power. It was once German and may be German again tc wm respect and dmiration by the human contribution, by the power of the sovereign spint.
(Thomas Mann’s article was in pdf format, scanned for The Nation, and while copying it from The Nation to this blog, has many mistakes. For a clearer version, you could click the link below)