A Genius for War (Magill's Literary Annual 1978)
What can be said of a people as contradictory as the Germans, who gave the world Hayden and the Holocaust, Beethoven and Buchenwald? A nation of bright, industrious men who constructed great ships and grand philosophies, and also planned their wars, decades in advance, with equal care? We must analyze such people cautiously; our minds have been molded by their militarism, politics, and monumental defeats (on the heels of their great triumphs in the early stages of the same wars). We can still watch seas of German humanity goosestepping across flickering newsreels in a mindless apotheosis of Hitlerism. Films like Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl’s brilliant documentary of the 1934 Nazi Party rally at Nuremburg, even today stir our latent fears of Germany. Strutting brigades of fancifully dressed Uhlans, self-styled Huns, and Storm Troopers emblazoned with death’s head insignia parade grimly before the camera’s eye, a collective personification of German military history. Crowds orgasmically chant “Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Führer” with a joy emanating from some medieval, Teutonic oversoul. We sense that those masses of faceless people, hypnotized by the rasping voice of their charismatic leader, had found fulfillment in their willing submission to the State.
Perhaps the answer lies in Prussia, a nation founded in darker ages in the Eastern marches by Teutonic Knights. Ringed by expansionistic and warlike peoples, possessing...
(The entire section is 3000 words.)
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