Past and Present

In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 21, 2005 / 10 Adar II, 5765

Haunted by history

By Suzanne Fields

Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler and Heino Ferch as Albert Speer in "Downfall"
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Email this article | There was almost an audible sigh of relief in certain precincts when "Downfall," a movie about Hitler's last days in the Berlin bunker, did not win an Academy Award for best foreign film.

Some critics thought the movie, with several strong and believable acting performances, tried to humanize Hitler. Others speculated about why the filmmaker wanted to lend complexity — and inevitably, sympathy — to those surrounding Der Fuehrer who were eager to die with him rather than live in a world without National Socialism. A good filmmaker with a wonderful cast can weave an illusionary spell that goes well beyond analysis.

"Downfall" was controversial enough here, but it set off an even greater debate in Germany, one that continues with the publication of "Hitler's Volksstaat," a new best-selling controversial book about the Third Reich by German historian Gotz Aly. The professor offers an original theory about why Germans so willingly followed Hitler to ruin. It's a theory with economic relevance today. Germans, he says, accepted Hitler's evil because he introduced social policies that benefited the majority of the German people. Ordinary "good" Germans were "seduced" by National Socialism's heady mix of "high-speed history making" and generous state handouts.

There's more than a few remnants left in German welfare policy today. Many Germans eagerly condemn Hitler's fascism but won't examine the other reasons why the Third Reich succeeded for a season. The book is especially timely because German unemployment is at the highest level since the 1930s, with more than 5.2 million unemployed.

Gotz Aly sees antecedents for this in Hitler's policies that undercut a work ethic, running up debts that would have to be paid by others in the future. Hundreds of finely tuned laws were aimed at "socio-political appeasement." Thus was the foundation laid for the modern German welfare state. Tax incentives for married couples stem from 1934. With generous benefits from the state, women no longer had to work outside the home. Hitler doubled the number of paid holidays: "He promised Germans everything and asked little in return." The Schroder/Fischer government, he says, "now faces the historic task of bidding a prolonged farewell to the German community of the Volk (the people)."

Hitler's appeal to greed and sloth, to increase German prosperity without requiring Germans to work for it, led into the Holocaust because confiscating Jewish property seemed to make sense to the greedy. The public face of the annihilation policy was "the modern, cozy and obliging welfare state." Hitler, according to this theory, was engaged in a constant game of give and take, in which "he established the redistributive state par excellence."

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This book has not yet been published in America; I have read excerpts in English. I visit Berlin occasionally to visit family, and the economic problems are quickly evident even to the casual visitor. Cultural life in Berlin is lively and fascinating, but the economy, which must in the end support the culture, is flat, stale and sinking; productivity grew at a rate of only 1 percent over the last decade. Regulations designed to protect those who work penalize those out of work and inhibit hiring. German businessmen are overwhelmed by the high cost of doing business. Inflexible rules, enforced by a burgeoning bureaucracy, discourage entrepreneurship.

My daughter's husband has a landscaping business, for example, but no matter how hard he works it's difficult for him to employ workers because regulations and restrictions are so rigid. Many of their friends are unemployed. My twin granddaughters are not yet a year old, and face a dismal choice of mediocre public schools.

Gotz Aly's analysis surfaces as some Germans are beginning to look hard at their welfare state and the inhibiting market restrictions that will require a drastic overhaul in attitudes before the nation would be up to answering a version of John F. Kennedy's famous challenge to Americans: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask instead what you can do for your country." Many of the problems arrived with reunification of East and West, but others stem from a more painful part of their history.

Thomas Childers, a professor of the history of the Third Reich at the University of Pennsylvania, observes that "facts don't change, but we do, and our perspective on them changes as we learn new things." In a global economy that will not reward sloth and dullness, Germany with a robust economy is in the interest of all of us. But hard questions are beginning to demand answers.

Every weekday publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here. Comment on JWR contributor Suzanne Fields' column by clicking here.

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