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Heidegger was ‘not all that different from us’ Adorno wrote to Heidegger in 1949; later Adorno covered up his intellectual debt to Heidegger when he turned on the master in his polemical book The Jargon of Authenticity.31 Analysing Heidegger’s case to the denazification tribunal, Tom Rockmore, patiently shows that he was not really a critic of Fascism. Heidegger’s ‘turning away from really existent National Socialism’, was really ‘towards an ideal form of Nazism’.32 As Rudiger Safranski rightly notes, Heidegger’s objection to official Nazi policy came ‘because he was outraged by its concessions to the old bourgeois forces’. Just as Röhm was making the demand for a Second Revolution, Heidegger looked forward to a ‘second and more profound awakening’. Unimpressed with the University’s exoneration, the French military authorities ordered the tribunal to think again. Ever the petit bourgeois, Heidegger was most concerned to save his library from expropriation and his pension. But Heidegger’s books were not burned, and in 1947, his pension – unlike the wages owed Germany’s wartime slave labourers – was restored. In March 1949 the tribunal ruled ‘Fellow traveller. No punitive measures’ and in 1951, his right to teach was restored.33 Adorno’s Institute for Historical Research was relocated back to Frankfurt, with the help of a grant from US High Commissioner John McCloy and ‘the benevolent approval of the Adenauer regime’.
In the last months of the Third Reich two young men were drafted into military service:
Heinrich Böll and Jurgen Habermas. Böll went on to write the Tin Drum about a boy who refuses to grow up to avoid the horrors and moral complicity of the war. Habermas went on to study his doctorate under the anti-war radical Wolfgang Abendroth. But Habermas, studying Lukacs, turned his back on the idea that the working class could be the agent of history, saying Lukacs’s collective subject ‘wouldn’t work’.35 It was an echo of Heidegger’s rejection of Lukacs, that mass man ‘is not something like a “universal subject” which a plurality of subjects have hovering above them’.36 Like Böll, Habermas read the experience of Germany’s bid for dominance as a case for modesty and self-limitation.
Chapter Thirty Two Revising the History of the Second World War War of the anniversaries Just as the Second World War came to an end in Europe, the historical record was already open to argument. German Commander Admiral Doenitz ordered General Alfred Jodl to surrender to US military commander Dwight D. Eisenhower one day earlier than the surrender to the Soviets in the east, giving rise to two different ‘Victory in Europe’ (V.E.) Days, the eighth and ninth of May. Lauding the end of the war has proved to be a hot topic ever since.
On the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, a row blew up just before the Moscow commemorations. American President George Bush seemed to regret the end of the war, and the Russian victory over Fascism: ‘For much of Eastern and Central Europe, victory brought the iron rule of another empire’; and this was ‘one of the greatest wrongs of history’.1 And yet the following day George Bush celebrated V.E. Day in Moscow as ‘a moment where the world will recognise the great bravery and sacrifice the Russian people made in the defeat of Nazism’.2 Against any doubters, President Putin insisted on the heroic meaning of V.E. Day, a ‘victory of good over evil’. Also present were the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, French President Jacques Chirac and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Events were also organised in Berlin, which organised a festival of democracy coinciding with the opening of the new Holocaust Museum. President Koehler said that Germany ‘looked back with shame and horror’ at the war and the holocaust of European Jewry in the Nazi Gas Chambers, conceding that it was impossible for Germany to ‘draw a line under its history’. In France President Chirac laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier as jets flew by but in Britain veterans complained that the celebrations were too low key.3 The American President’s doubts in Moscow echoed the complaints from national leaders in the former Soviet bloc. In particular, the Baltic States, Lithuania and Estonia boycotted the Moscow Parade after President Putin refused them an apology for occupying them after the war. The Polish editor of Politikaya, Adam Kzreminski, objected to the myth of Soviet liberation of the eastern bloc in an article whose title resonated more widely: ‘The Second World War is Still Being Fought’. ‘The Second World War changed Europe completely, but to this day there is no single European version of it,’ wrote Krzeminski, adding ‘Time will tell if this clash of national myths will ultimately engender a common European view of the Second World War.’ 4 As President Bush’s intervention made clear, the dispute over the meaning of the Second World War runs wider than just Europe.
It was Bush’s predecessor, President Bill Clinton who first joined the commemoration in Moscow, at the invitation of his Russian counterpart, President Boris Yeltsin on the fiftieth anniversary, though like Chancellor Kohl he did not review the military parade. The decision was criticised by die-hard Conservatives at the time - ‘a serious blunder’ according to the National Review: ‘There is only one place the American President should be in Europe on V.E. Day, and that is London, where the British government plans its own commemoration’.
‘Snubbing the heirs of Churchill to clink glasses with the heirs of Stalin is an act of truly Rooseveltian foolishness,’ they concluded. 5 Britain was not wholly snubbed as John Major records, V.E. Day celebrations in 1995 began in St Paul’s Cathedral ‘attended by the largest number of world leaders to visit London since the Coronation in 1953’, including US Vice President Al Gore. Major flew to Paris that night to attend a lunch with President Mitterand the following day, before going on to Berlin, for a commemorative event with Chancellor Kohl and Boris Yeltsin in Berlin, finally arriving in Moscow for the events there on 9 May.6 Previous V.E. Days were marked by open hostility to the formerly Soviet allies. The New York Times thought that the thirtieth anniversary of the Victory over Fascism in Moscow in 1975 was ‘marked with a lavishly patriotic campaign that bears significant ideological overtones’.7 Ten years earlier, the Times mocked the communist world’s ‘elaborate campaign to turn the 20th anniversary of Victory in Europe into “Hate West Germany Day”‘.
‘The Soviet managed anniversary campaign to focus international attention on the evils of Nazism is well along,’ they regretted.8 The previous year, President Lyndon Johnson used the twentieth anniversary of D-Day to berate France for sabotaging Nato.9 Indeed the strains between former allies were so great that V.E. Day was in danger of being cancelled altogether. French President Giscard D’Estaing had promised as much in 1975, earning praise from West German President Walter Scheel: ‘all the inhabitants of the German Federal Republic owe warm thanks to President Giscard D’Estaing for his decision not to commemorate further the defeat of Germany in 1945’.10 In 1985, the British Conservative government wanted to abandon the fortieth V.E. Day, Baroness Young explaining: ‘any official British international celebration confined to wartime allies could appear at best nostalgic, and at worst anti-German, unbalanced and open to historical distortion by the Soviet Union.’ 11 Prime Minister Thatcher, however, had underestimated the popular demand for marking wartime anniversaries - a popular demand that she had done most to crank up - and conceded four days later that ‘we should have a national celebration’.12 On that day in 1985 Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was in Moscow, while US President Ronald Reagan was addressing the European parliament in Strasbourg on the need for his ‘Star Wars’ defence programme.13 The speech was overshadowed, however, by an earlier Reagan gaffe, defending himself after being criticised for visiting Kolmeshohe, a German war cemetery at Bitburg, saying that the soldiers buried there ‘were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps’.14 Taking his bearings from the Cold War rehabilitation of Germany, Reagan was out of step with the growing anti-German sentiment that focussed upon that the Nazi record. The discovery that 49 of the Bitburg dead were from Hitler’s Waffen SS shock troops galvanised Jewish and veteran protests.15 Though V.E. Day was becoming more problematic, Baroness Young’s solution, if not adopted wholesale, was attractive, especially to Britain and the US. The implicit meaning of the British government’s 1985 attempt to abandon V.E. Day was not just to save Germany’s blushes, if at all, but also to write the Soviet Union out of the victory. What they had in mind was to downgrade V.E. Day in relation to another anniversary, ‘D-Day’, when American and British troops landed at Normandy, to begin the Western assault on Hitler’s Europe, 6 June
1944. The fortieth anniversary of D-Day in 1984 was a grand affair for Britain, America and France, where Ronald Reagan lauded the liberation as well as paying homage to the role of the French resistance. Pointedly absent, of course, were the Germans and the Soviets.
Indeed Helmut Kohl said at the time ‘There’s no reason for a German chancellor to celebrate when others are marking their victory in a battle in which tens of thousands of Germans were killed.’ 16 Even with the exclusion of Germany and Russia, the anniversary of the Normandy landing has sometimes turned into a big row. In 1964 Charles de Gaulle, wartime leader of the Free French, returned to the presidency in 1958, refused to attend, rhetorically asking his advisors ‘you want me to go and attend their landing, when it was the prelude to a second occupation of the country?’ 17 De Gaulle’s boycott made it impossible for US President Lyndon Johnson or Prime Minister Harold Wilson to go either; their countries’ respective wartime military commanders, Eisenhower and Montgomery, both withdrew. Even in 1984, France’s President Mitterand made up for the snub to German Chancellor Kohl by inviting him to a joint commemoration of the First World War battle of Verdun, a better shrine to European cooperation, according to Le Monde.18
By 1995, Britain’s insistent D-Day celebrations were beginning to sound a bit shrill:
Special D-Day packs were sent to every school, street parties were arranged with instructions to fry spam fritters, a D-Day beer was brewed, all commissioned by the D-Day Awareness Campaign (run by Tory public relations man Tim Bell), to ‘mobilise’ the whole nation, said a hopeful John Major. Mobilising the nation behind D-Day, though, also put the veterans in the driving seat, and their demands for a more sombre occasion were immediately accepted, and the spam fritters left in their tins.19 Meanwhile Chancellor Kohl wrote a memo to his officials about the fiftieth Normandy landing anniversary: ‘we don’t want to be invited’, he wrote adding ‘we say nothing else’, underlining ‘nothing’ twice.20 By the sixtieth D-Day anniversary in 2004 though, all that had changed, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder happily accepted an invitation from President Jacques Chirac to take part. ‘Hugely symbolic,’ the chancellor has said of his invitation. ‘It means the Second World War is finally over.’ 21 Relations between the US and its European allies, having been tested over another invasion, that of Iraq in 2003, were still awkward. The night before the Sixtieth D-Day anniversary, President Bush compared the struggle against Fascism to that against Islamist terrorism. But President Chirac was eager to play down differences, and unlike de Gaulle insisted France ‘will never forget those men who made the supreme sacrifice to liberate our soil, our native land’.22 One might think that so singular an event as the Second World War ought to be hard fact, not disputed opinion. But as the official commemorations of its successive anniversaries shows, the conflict over the meaning of the Second World War began once the shooting stopped. Two broad trends stand out: first, the differences between Russia and the other allies, America, Britain and France about the post-war settlement made joint commemorations impossible, at least until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, and awkward since; second, American (and British) attitudes to Germany have shifted, having dismissed an undue preoccupation with the Nazi past as ‘Soviet propaganda’, to themselves dwelling on it. During the Cold War, America rehabilitated the German authorities as junior partners, but when Germany became more powerful in its own right, Americans became more preoccupied with the history of German revanchism, as exemplified in the Nazi era - a change in sentiment that caught out Ronald Reagan at the Bitburg Cemetry. Britain, too, seemed to get a bigger taste for commemorations of victory over Germany, as the event itself receded, and perhaps as German industry outstripped Britain’s.