Fazit (Account Rendered)

I first read about the German book, Fazit, by Melita Maschmann, a former Nazi, in an article on the New Yorker’s online blog (5/29/13). The blog, “I was a Nazi, and Here’s Why,” described the book as Maschmann’s explanation of why she joined the Hitler Youth and continued her allegiance to the principles of the Third Reich throughout the war, extending even four weeks after the ceasefire, when she was captured by American troops.

What led so many Germans to become followers of National Socialism? Maschmann’s account is a first-hand attempt to answer this question.

She wrote Fazit (titled Account Rendered in the English translation) in the form of a letter to a friend, a Jew, trying to explain why she fell under the sway of Nazism, joined the Hitler Youth movement, and sustained her conviction, in spite of all that she came to know. She also hoped the book would lead her colleagues and other Germans, to reflect on their own actions

She is very clear and often repeats the several reasons that explain what she did:

• To escape from her narrow, authoritarian upbringing by attaching herself to something that offered a more promising life.

• In the belief that National Socialism would bring people of all classes together and live together like brothers and sisters.

• That the program of the Third Reich would go a long way toward overcoming the German defeat in World War I, the onerous conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, and reduce the toll of unemployment in Germany, where six million people had no jobs and were living in virtual poverty.

• She never imagined that the leaders of Nazi Germany would launch a war, one that spread throughout Europe and then eventually easterly into Russia. Yet even then, she clung to her allegiance to the Hitler regime and service in the Hitler Youth.

“But I bowed to the tragic and, as I thought, inevitable law governing this country that ran: He who will not suffer wrong must commit wrong. Only he who possesses the power and exercises it can be master of this world.”

She claims she wasn’t trying to justify her actions that included supervising the eviction of Polish farmers and resettlement of Germans on their farms and working for the press and propaganda divisions of Nazi youth organizations. I confess I’m not entirely persuaded by her claim

At the same time, she recognizes the various ways she was deluded. Throughout Fazit, Maschman admits to her naivety, uncritical thinking and ready acceptance of “idealistic fantasies and illusions” about what National Socialism could accomplish.

She seems almost blind to the consequences of Hitler’s rule, claims to be unaware of the Holocaust until the War was over and admits that Germans had become “accomplices of a policy of hatred and banditry.”

Maschmann draws her account to an end with one lesson: “It is from such experiences that one can recognize the terrible power which so called ideologies can exercise over young people. Once they have surrendered to them, they see without seeing and hear without hearing.”

Need I add, that the power of ideologies is not restricted to the young?