The Moral Conquest of Germany, by Emil Ludwig
The first ninety-six pages of this book ought to be studied carefully. They constitute an alarming specimen of what Leon Blum once termed “racialism in reverse.” Ludwig claims that there exists such a phenomenon as “German character,” not as a heuristic construction, but as a “genuine reality.” That character is not only unchangeable, but also 100 per cent black—as the Nazis claimed the “Jewish character” to be.
It is not this reviewer’s intention to whitewash the murderers of Maidanek; but the pseudo-science of Nazism cannot be fought by anti-Nazi pseudo-science. Metaphysics is not facts. Enough of the dismal traits commonly attributed to Germans can be shown to be neither metaphysically nor biologically inherent, but induced by sociological factors, and Ludwig did not have to go out of his way to create additional black spots in order to drive home his lesson. He draws what he considers to be a psychological portrait of “the” contemporary German, confronting it with one of “the” contemporary American. Sober readers will be repelled by his crude black-and-white technique and by his tail-wagging attempt to ingratiate himself to American sentiment. According to Ludwig, no German would stop for a minute to give a hand to a fellow-man in trouble. The innocuous word Herr in the phrase “Herr Doktor” is for Ludwig a trait of servility—he overlooks the fact that the French use a similar phrase: “Monsieur le Docteur.” And just listen to some of his statements: “The American habit of basking in the sun for pure enjoyment is completely foreign to the German. . . . The German is seldom as happy a man as his American counterpart. . . . The tension within the German character can . . . be read in the German face. . . . Germany is the only country which lacks a hero of liberty. . . . German history knows of practically no outstanding woman. . . . German literature contains not a single great love epic . . .” and so on ad infinitum.
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