(Rome) A bit of bit of real European history not in the books yet: in the 1960s and extending into the 1980s there was widespread concern, preoccupation and discontent in Germany, in Europe, unease and a sensation of insecurity. The Communist East appeared to many people as an ominous threat, though it is now common knowledge that it was to a great extent a propaganda bugaboo created artificially by CIA. The Cold War raged to be sure, though today something about it seems false and unreal, albeit a romantic period. It is as if it never took place.
In my mind it was a well-controlled, coordinated and monitored battle between systems in which neither side overstepped certain agreed upon limits. It was also a battle of attrition. A period of spymasters and secret agents for whom life was action on a treadmill, for right up to the end CIA never knew for certain what was really happening in Russia. The atmosphere was one of action for action’s sake. No wonder that in the wilderness of propaganda, conspiracy and anti-Communism neo-Nazi parties mushroomed here and there and their various fronts and battle groups popped up with the new spring. Who stood behind them, one might well wonder. The answer is clear. The American Minute Men and Tea-baggers of today are nothing new.
An American academic friend, Jack Aigler, Professor of European History at the Munich branch of University of Maryland, was obsessed with the imminent recrudescence of Nazi Germany. For him it was a socio-political certainty, its ideology inherent in the German people, he believed, only superficially cloaked by America’s hypocritical democratization of the defeated enemy as a consequence of the exigencies of the Cold War. “We wanted anti-Communist allies in Central Europe,” he pontificated to his students those evenings I sat in on his class, “Well, we’ve got them. We’ve got a tiger by the tail. Let’s arm them all and give them the green light. Then we’ll have a real bulwark against Bolshevism,” he said. This was linked to an old story I had heard many times from Germans: why hadn’t America united with Germany and whipped the Russians? Many like two-gun General Patton considered the alliance of America and Germany without Hitler the natural order of things. According to Jack, America and the ex-Nazis got their wish. Not that Jack was a leftist or even a liberal far ahead of his times but he saw aspects of the Cold War which I still did not understand. An iron bastion against the Commies! “Hah! You see all those gray Bundeswehr uniforms around town!,” he said in the 1960s. “And everywhere you hear Deutschland Deutschland über alles. Just wait till the Nazis kick out Adenauer and take over. Then we’ll see the tail wagging Europe. They’re too powerful a people; their instincts and their destiny are for expansion.” For him the Föhn winds he hid from symbolized the threat of renascent Nazism. When the Nazi-Föhn winds blew down from the Alps he sealed his apartment with hermetic shutters so that night reigned there constantly. He believed the beguiling, malefic Föhn had the same effect on people as Nazism. On such days when surgeons refused to operate and mechanics wouldn’t adjust a carburetor and judges refused to judge, Jack locked himself in, dressed in a long robe and red silk scarf high around his neck, wore heavy sunglasses over his steel-rimmed eye glasses, plunged rubber plugs in his ears that he boasted reached to his eardrums and passed the day drinking Pernod. The wind that departs quietly from the Sahara, whips across the Mediterranean and serpentines through the Alps ruining the snow for skiing and descends on the plains of Bavaria like the arm of capricious Fate was for Jack a physical enemy, inimical and inexorable, to be combated with all possible weapons. He needed the Föhn-Nazism, and spared nothing to defend all of us with the Pernod and the Fundor brandy he bought by the case at the PX at .75 cents a bottle. One wonders how Europe can permit the resurgence of Nazi parties, not only in Ukraine but in every corner of Europe, who assassinate at will, even parliamentarians as in England in these days.
Gaither Stewart is a veteran journalist, his dispatches on politics, literature, and culture, have been published (and translated) on many leading online and print venues.