Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld

Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

From the Archives: Speculating About a Post-Hitler National Socialism Under Otto Strasser

I just finished reading British journalist (and vicious anti-Semite) Douglas Reed's 1940 book, Nemesis?  The Story of Otto Strasser and the Black Front, and was struck by his use of counterfactuals.

Reed was eager to position Otto Strasser as a likely successor to Hitler following what the journalist believed would be the Führer’s imminent demise.  Reed hoped that Strasser would inaugurate a Fourth Reich rooted in a much more genuine form of National Socialism (as opposed to the faux version peddled by Hitler, who diluted its radical thrust by jumping into bed with the Junkers and capitalists).

Reed wistfully imagined how Strasser (and not Hitler) might have risen to power and speculated about several scenarios.

Referring to the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, in which Otto’s brother, the leading NSDAP official, Gregor Strasser was murdered, along with more than 100 other “enemies” of the Nazi party, Reed wrote:  “But for the intrigues and stiletto-work that outdid the medieval Italian courts and the gang-wars of Chicago, the Strassers, and not Hitler, might have become the leaders of Germany.  Germany would then never have known the orgasms of hysterical, mock-patriotic self-pity and self-applause which she knew under Hitler; but she and Europe would probably have been spared war.”

This passage serves the rhetorical purpose of paving the way for Reed’s ensuing programmatic declaration:

"The time may be coming soon for Otto Strasser to take up his brother’s work.”

Elsewhere, Reed speculated:

“Gregor [Strasser] had an easy-going streak in his pugnacious nature which always led him, in the decisive moment, to give way to Hitler, and this affected the course of European history. For if he had broken away from Hitler with his brother, the National Socialist Party would have certainly split, and Germany and Europe would have been spared the militarist nightmare in which they now live; or even if the party had not split, the claim-to-the-succession of the two Strassers, to-day, would be irresistible.”

Finally, Reed critizied Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher for falling to the political intrigue that led to Hitler’s rise to power, noting that Schleicher should "have obtained from President Hindenburg power to dissolve the Reichstag, and then he should have arrested the chief intriguers, Papen, Hitler, Oskar von Hindenburg, the leading Junkers, Göring, and a few others, and have rallied the masses of Georg Strasser’s National Socialists…behind him by a manifesto explaining…his action….By such means, he might have saved Germany and Europe.”

All of these passages confirm how discontent with the present can prompt people to fantasize about alternate pasts.

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