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TOTALITARIANISM IN MODERN EUROPE: FASCISM

POLITICAL THEORY

Metapolitics: The Roots of the Nazi Mind by Peter Viereck. In spite of the shrill anti-German tone of the author, this is a brilliant book. The book is a very incisive study of 200 years of German philosophy, showing the deep roots of the Nazi movement in German romanticism. A key failing of the book is its neglect of the deep responsibility of the Christian church for the Holocaust. Luther's call for the burning down of synagogues and other matters are not at all covered in adequate detail.

The Mind of Germany by Hans Kohn. This is also a good book. It covers similar material to Viereck's. Both books fail to note the importance of Hegel to the creation of the Nazi state.

Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right since 1890 by Philip Rees. This is a very important book. It contains excellent references to original sources and paints a very interesting portrait of key figures in the intellectual movements that led to the triumph of fascism in Europe in the 1930's.

The Crowd by Gustav LeBon. This is one of the classics of western studies of political tactics. It was used by Lenin, Hitler and Mussolini. It is an insightful study of political tactics used to organize mass movements.

Wagner's Hitler by Joachim Kohler. This new book is one of the most brilliant books on Nazi Germany published since the war. It is virtually inconceivable that Hitler would have come to power without the inspiration of Richard Wagner. Even the Nazi slogan "Germany awake" comes from Wagner's Meistersinger. This book details a part of Hitler's life that is not well-documented, his beginning political career in the 1920's. What is so interesting here is the tremendous support he received from the Wagner family from almost the very start. Unlike the support of Ludendorff and others, this support was totally unwavering and consistent from his initial meeting with the Wagner family to the end of his life. There is no doubt that this gave Hitler a vital sense of mission and self-confidence that kept him going in the middle of the most severe frustrations.

Richard Wagner by Derek Watson. This book suffers from the fact that Watson, an accomplished historian of music, is simply a lightweight when it comes to German history and philosophy. However, one of the last chapters, "Art and Religion" gives a credible summary of Wagner's political views. It is very important to be able to see the key aspects of Nazi Germany, the preoccupation with race, the hatred of the Jews and the infatuation with the ancient world of pre-Christian Germany. Wagner also hated capitalism. Aspects of the Rheingold were deliberately designed to be a vicious satire and an attack on the German capitalist world.

Martin Luther  by Hartmann Grisar. This is one of the most detailed and definitive biographies of Luther.  Grisar is the leading Catholic historian of Luther and thus has not been a part of the censorship of Luther's actions that has been such a sorry part of the work of so many Protestant historians. There are two versions of this book, a multi volume complete edition and an abridged version. Both contain detailed footnotes to back up all relevant facts.

Few people are more misunderstood in America than Martin Luther. For most Americans Luther is seen as a kind of German counterpart to America's founding fathers, fighting for free speech and religious tolerance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Luther's courageous and vital role in successfully toppling the Catholic Church from its dominant position in Europe did not lead to a world view that endorsed civil liberties. Luther's replacement for the Catholic church in Germany was a religious system dominated by the power of the German kings and princes, the beginning of a process of political fragmentation in Germany that would lead to the Thirty Years War, one of the greatest disasters in modern European history where one third of all the German people would perish under appalling circumstances.

The legal structure of the Lutheran church in Germany, which he created, would be a major factor in Nazi Germany. The Lutheran pastors were employees of the Prussian state. In other words they got their paychecks from Hitler.

Luther was a man consumed by various hatreds. His hatred of the Catholic Church was accompanied by an equally virulent hatred of both democracy and the Jews. During the peasants revolt Luther called for the most ferocious measures possible by the German nobles to wipe out the power of the peasants. Luther was totally opposed to the idea of religious freedom. Had a modern American evangelist like Billy Graham come to Saxony, he would not have met a happy fate. Luther hated the Baptists and urged that they be executed. Luther also strongly supported the use of the death penalty for many other Christian "heresies".

In his vitriolic book, The Jews and Their Lies, Luther called for the expulsion of the Jews from Germany, and actually succeeded in convincing his patron, the Elector of Saxony, to expel all Jews from his territory. It is almost certain that the Nazis got the idea for Kristall Nacht from Luther since he very specifically called for the burning down of all synagogues in Germany. The Nazis carried out Luther's wishes on his birthday in 1938.  Luther's views on the Jews are so appalling that they need to be read directly via this link

Horrible and criminal as Luther's ideas were, it is very important to see that they were hardly isolated points of view.  The British and French monarchies had already adopted such policies during the High Middle Ages.  In 1492 the Spanish monarchy carried out the appalling expulsion of over 300,000 Jews as well as committing a long series of war crimes against its Islamic subjects.

In fairness, Luther did not call for the total extermination of the Jews.  However, there is no doubt he paved the way for this crime.  Hitler repeatedly compared himself to Luther, and his works were reprinted and distributed all over Germany by the Nazis.

Regulating the Social: The Welfare State and Local Politics in Imperial Germany by George Steinmetz. Another very important book. People forget the huge importance of Bismarck in creating the modern welfare state. Social security and national health insurance were introduced in Germany before they were used in other modern states.  Imperial Germany had a better health insurance system that today's America.

Prussianism and Socialism by Oswald Spengler. This book is a very interesting view of modern German philosophy. Spengler discusses Bismarck's social policies and shows how they were a model for modern social reforms.  Imperial Germany had a better health insurance system than modern America.

TOTALITARIANISM IN MODERN EUROPE: FASCISM
HISTORY

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
by William Shirer. Shirer's book is very good, particularly in its short but very observant comments on the intellectual roots of Nazism. The role of Luther is very well explained here. Shirer, unlike most historians of Hitler, lived and worked in Nazi Germany for years. For the record, Hitler abolished the term Third Reich in 1942 and replaced it with the term German Reich.

The Young Hitler I Knew by August Kubizek. Information about Hitler's early years is hard to come by, and much material is highly suspect that has been published. Kubizek's book, however, is almost certainly true and provides a visionary insight into Hitler's life. The single most important part of the book is the reaction of Hitler to Wagner's Rienzi and his interpretation of this event as a major religious experience in his life. The reason young Hitler and young Kubizek became friends was their mutual infatuation with Wagner. They met at the opera house in Linz.

Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer. Albert Speer was without a doubt one of the greatest architects of the last 200 years. However, this book has major problems. Speer's credibility has been very much called into question. To be specific, Speer, as head of all German armaments production, could not possibly have been ignorant of the Holocaust as he claimed. The concentration camp system was directly linked into the arms industry. Thus, all Speer's comments need to be regarded with a skeptical eye. Speer's postwar negative comments on Nazism ring hollow. If Hitler had won the war, Speer would be singing a very different song.

The Deadly Embrace by Anthony Read and David Fisher.  A fascinating study of the relationship between the two leading totalitarian states in modern Europe, Russia and Germany..

TOTALITARIANISM IN MODERN EUROPE: FASCISM
DOCUMENTARY MATERIAL

Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. It is not entirely clear that Hitler actually wrote all of this famous work. He probably wrote parts of it, and it certainly reflected his ideas at the time. The book is clearly essential reading for this subject of history.

Hitler: Speeches and Proclamations 1932-1940 by Max Domarus. This three volume set is very expensive and not readily available. The English translation is very poor.  We would strongly recommend that anybody who can read German purchase the German edition. Furthermore, the layout of the book has big problems. It is very hard to tell where speeches begin and end. Domarus does not set this out clearly. Even more annoying is his habit of inserting his own comments in the middle of speeches. A particular value of this book is its footnotes and its record of Hitler's schedule of actions during each year. Not all speeches are complete and some speeches are left out altogether.. This fact is often not noted, further complicating matters. However, it spite of its problems this book is vital. The fourth volume, 1941 to 1945, is only available in German but is expected to be translated into English.

Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-1945, Series C, Volumes 1-6 (1933-1937), Series D, Volumes 1-13 (1937-1945)  Essential reading.  Vital source of documentary material.

Nazi-Soviet Relations, Editor, Raymond Sontag.  A fascinating collection of documentary material.

Nuremburg Rally Yearbooks.  In early September every year the Nazi Party would assemble for a huge series of  rallies in the city of Nuremburg.  Yearbooks were created for these rallies which are very useful documentary sources for the political theories of the movement and the structure of the Nazi state.   The exact titles of each book are Reichstagung in Nurnberg (Year) Der Parteitag der (Title for each year).

Ich Kampfe, Master of Ceremonies, Hitler, the Hoffman Photographs translated by Ray and Josephine Cowdery. These books are absolutely essential. They are verbatim translations of key works published in Nazi Germany and are reasonably priced. A particular value of these books is that they are bi-lingual. The exact, original German text is retained next to English translations. This is critical because many key German words do not translate directly into English. Ich Kampfe is especially valuable because it is the official Nazi party membership book. Filled with ideological texts and pictures it gives a vital view into the political mind of Nazi Germany. The other two books are picture books of some of the most important propaganda spectacles of Nazi Germany, the union with Austria in 1938, the largest (and last) of Hitler's Nuremburg rallies and the spectacular celebrations that took place in Berlin to celebrate Hitler's birthday on April 20 in 1939.

Albert Speer: Architecture by Leon Krier. This is a truly amazing book. A giant book of pictures on Speer's projects for Hitler, the majority of which were never built. The huge pictures of Hitler's plans for the new Berlin are like something straight out of a science fiction novel. This book captures the spirit of modern totalitarianism in art.

VIDEO DOCUMENTARY MATERIAL

Triumph of the Will Nazi Germany cannot be understood without watching this film. Without a doubt it is the greatest propaganda film of all time. It is a rule-breaking film of truly staggering self-confidence, displayed by the fact that there is no narrator for the documentary. The creator of the the film, Leni Riefenstahl, is so sure of the power of the message that the idea of a narrator is dismissed as a potential distraction. In this film, in the streets of Nuremburg, one can see the huge appeal of modern totalitarianism. Hitler appears as a political savior, a figure out of a mythological vision.  The film is now available on DVD.

INTERNATIONAL HISTORIC FILMS VIDEOS. For some mysterious reason,  no similar films were made of the much larger annual rallies at Nuremburg that followed from 1935 to 1938. However, a U.S. company called International Historic Films has reproduced on video three other effective films on the following subjects: Hitler's spectacular birthday parade in Berlin in 1939, Hitler's entrance into Berlin in 1940 after the defeat of France and Mussolini's visit to Germany in 1937.

 WAR CRIMES AND ATROCITIES

Death by Government by R.J. Rummel. This is probably one of the most important books of the twentieth century. It is a no-nonsense discussion of political mass murder. What is particularly useful is its ability to place the German Holocaust in perspective as part of a larger pattern of political mass murder in our time.

The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry by Leni Yahil.  A solid history of the Holocaust.  The main shortcoming of the book is that it does very little to discuss the origins of anti-Semitism in Europe.

The Atlas of the Holocaust by Martin Gilbert.  A good book that helps give a clear picture of the huge nature of Nazi programs of genocide.  It shows the giant system of mass deportations and mass murders throughout the Nazi empire in the east from 1941 to the end of the war.