7/18/2019

Germany, Temporal and Eternal

"National Socialism’s appeal to an idealized and distant past rejected history in favor of the very different phenomenon of mythic memory which collapses time and eschews context. Memory, instead of locating occurrences in their relationship with past, present, and future, creates an eternal now. Clark sees National Socialism as very different on this point from the futurist tendencies of Italian fascism and Soviet communism—both of which sought to realize what they envisioned as history’s promise. Timeless archetypes drawn from Germanic memory served as reference points for National Socialism instead of “history still conceived as a forwards-driving machine of progress.”

Clark finds in this rejection of history a triumph of prophesy over contingency. Instead of viewing history as the interplay of forces that Bismarck had sought to manage, the Nazis understood it as an existential struggle to achieve an authentic existence for their race. Adolf Hitler could and did operate tactically for advantage in domestic and foreign politics, but in formulating ultimate objectives, he looked to end states where the demands of the present would have resolved themselves. He subordinated “conventional means to unconventional ends.” The future, in his imagining, became something that was inherited from the distant past and that was looked back upon in an imagined retrospect. Racial self-realization would be achieved by violent acts of will."