Berlin, East and West:
A Crossroads of History
September 21, 1991
We took the night train from Amsterdam
to Berlin and slept in our seats and this is not a method which provides
for good sleeping; I awoke in Berlin feeling groggy and tired with
little chance to freshen up. We spent the day making a whirlwind tour
of West Berlin. There is so much history (recent) here, and being able
to go into East Berlin is nothing short of miraculous. The Brandenberg
Gates area is now an open air market specializing in Soviet military
mementos. I bought a Soviet paratrooper watch for U.S. $18. While all
of Europe suffered devastation from the Nazis, great parts of Germany
are simply no longer there. The area around the Brandenberg Gates and
the Reichstag used to be the center of political life in pre-war Germany
- the heart of Germany. Today they are a series of empty fields. We
visited the site where the Gestapo Headquarters building used to stand;
now it is also an empty 1/4 mile of city block with a lone sign declaring
its former use. No one builds there.
I also visited the Old Jewish Cemetery
that was destroyed by the Nazis during the kristallnacht and is now
a lone and entirely peaceful and quiet park of the type so common to
East Berlin (and East Europe in general - semi-neglected is a better
term). I would not have been able to guess the history of this park
if I had not had a travel guide and an oblivious bystander would assume
the park is no more than a small unremarkable urban park. As I sat
quietly on a bench, I was struck how different it must have looked
in the days of the Nazi insanity; this site of odious violence and
hateful invective stands tranquilly oblivious to the passions and contentious
strivings of men and of the sins of the past. To my mind, this is as
it should be, for it makes one realize how inconsequential man really
is in the scheme of things and how the deeds of men only really matter
to men. In the Old Jewish Cemetery in 1991, the pigeons rule docilely
and the trees sway gently in the breeze quite unconcerned with man's
past misdeeds. They could care less about man and the stupidity and
vanity of homo sapiens. To the park, it all happened in a heartbeat
and the tranquility mocks the memory of frenzied Nazis digging up Jewish
A synagogue burns in Siegen, Germany, on November 10, 1938 (Kristallnacht).
West Berlin is gaudy and lively. It is
the perfect example of how West Germany rebuilt itself into a successful
free nation. We stayed in a pension near the Ku Damm which is highly
commercial and replete with neon lights. In striking contrast, the
bombed out Kaiser Wilhelm Church is now a religious memorial to peace.
I have heard it said that Germany is the country in Europe most like
America and I think there is truth in this. There is something about
the hustle and bustle of Berlin that puts me off, perhaps it is a little
too much like home.
I visited Checkpoint Charlie, which recently
became obsolete and a superfluous historical anachronism before its
official removal. The Checkpoint Charlie Museum was both powerful and
fascinating. There are examples of all the disparate ways in which
East Germans tried (both successful and unsuccessful) to cross the
wall: balloons, home-made airplanes, tunnels, etc. It would be hard
to underestimate how bitterly the Berlin Wall divided Germans or how
much it was hated. I saw more than one German crying at the Brandenberg
Gates, incredulous at being able to visit the place unmolested. I felt
quite proud at the U.S. role in keeping Berlin a free city. It is one
of the few times that we were really appreciated. During the blockade
there were some extremely dicey moments, and at Checkpoint Charley
U.S. and Soviet tanks squared off. In this climate, it is easy to understand
why President Kennedy with his unequivocal support seemed like such
a god to West Berliners - and to Europeans in general. His assassination
shocked the Europeans as much as it did Americans.
An American Army patrol checks on East German borderguard activity
near Ringstrasse by the Country Wall.
The wall area was constantly tense
and many times East Germans were shot down mere yards away from freedom,
right under the noses of U.S., French, and British guards. There were
even a few instances where East German soldiers threatened to shoot escapees
and only stopped when NATO soldiers pointed their weapons at the E. German
soldiers. What a terrible dilemma: to be under orders not to fire unless
fired upon under the justification of avoiding a general conflagration
and yet be powerless to prevent a murder right in front of your eyes
(and to be so clearly capable of stopping it). There is the tension between
what is smart and what is right.
I also paid a visit to the Plotzensee
Memorial, which is the prison and execution chamber of the Third
Reich. I had all along been wondering to myself, "Where are all the
honest Germans of conscience during Hitler's rule?" The answer is:
they were in Plotzensee. It is a large prison with the site of executions
in a neat little brick house outside the main walls. There is a beam
on the ceiling with eight hooks for the hanging of persons by the
neck, as well as drapes that can be pulled across to hide the bodies
from the next round of condemned men. During the war, there was also
a guillotine. Thousands were executed there, sometimes a hundred
in one night. All opposition (German) ended up in Plotzensee and
were inevitably executed, often after a stay of many months. There
were many admirable men who died there, and reading of the accounts
of their final moments and parting words was poignantly touching,
to say the least. It is one thing to read of tragedy and heroism
in the neutral surroundings of one's home, and quite another to try
to re-live it on the actual site with the relevant devices still
in place. Admittedly an indefensibly subjective experience, one can
almost hear the ghosts of the past pleading their case.
I should like to think that if I were
a German citizen in the Third Reich I would have the courage to be
in Plotzensee - clearly that is where people of good conscience in
Nazi Germany belonged! Too many Germans took the easy way out and
remained silent in the face of infamy. To be silent in such circumstances
is to be an accomplice to mass murder of the most crass nature.
Many men of conscience who died defiantly
in that little cabin because of opposition to the Nazis and it restored
a certain level of respect for the Germans of that era. It also deflated
my perception of the Nazis as able to completely mesmerize an entire
population. From the view of Plotzensee, they look no better than
any other totalitarian government that need resort to murder to silence
an idea. That view is particularly unflattering and effectively illuminates
the bottom line of Nazi rule: total lawlessness and brute force -
a boot kicking in a door in the middle of the night. Whatever can
be said about the discipline, efficiency, and honor of much of the
German Army, one cannot forget how the Nazi Party started out as
a collection of rowdies and beer hall brawlers in search of a weaker
opponent. It never moved much farther from this ignominious beginning.
The Nazis in ideology and in practice
were no lovers of erudite and learned men. Look at the following
quote by German writer Hanas Johst in his book Schlageter: "When
I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my revolver." (Johst was
later killed in WWII) Or according to Nazi leader Martin Borman, "Education
is a danger... At best an education which produces useful coolies
for us is admissible. Every educated person is an enemy." As
Nazi Propaganda Minister Paul Goebbels said, "Intellectual activity
is a danger to the building of character... The intellect has poisoned
our people. How much elementary strength in that fellow compared
with sickly intellectuals." or "Critics are morbid, degenerate,
democratic individuals. Some even say the Jew is a human being." Or
as Hitler himself quoted by John Gunther said, "A violently active,
dominating, intrepid, brutal youth is what I am after... I will have
no intellectual training. Knowledge us ruin to my young men." No
wonder so many of the German men of letters and learning fled the
country (Thomas Mann) while others (Victor Frankl) found themselves
in concentration camps.
Adolf Hitler! What a small-minded and
angry man! What an obscene government!
"The lawlessness of Hitler's Germany,
beneath a thin veneer of legal forms, was absolute. As Goering
put it, "The law and the will of the Führer are one." Hans
Frank: "Our constitution is the will of the Führer."
This effectively makes the law an instrument of oppression and violence.
All these execution writs I have seen here in museums deriving their
authority in "the name of the German People!" I am so tired of People's
Courts and summary justice and death in the name of the People, God,
etc., that has so besmirched the 19th and 20th centuries. French scholars
would have us all remember the Declaration of the Rights of Man as
the legacy of the French Revolution, but I remember the Terror and
the dark and towering figure of Robespierre; he was the first and not
the last man to figure that a greater happiness of mankind must be
brought about by a pitiless destruction of the "enemy," and that the
absolutely harshest measures were to be singularly pursued if a paradise
were to be assured. As if the degree upon which the utopia is deserved
depended upon the amount of brutality committed in its name, with each
death a sort of badge of honor and an emblem indicative of commitment
to the cause. I would almost prefer to be killed by reason of monarchical
capriciousness - there is less hypocrisy. It is a perverted ability
of intellectuals to be able to convince themselves that any sort of
good can come from such actions.
The Symbol of 20th Century Totalitarianism: A Political Prisoner in a Death
The Germans and German culture are
so paradoxical. The frenzied ravings of Nietzsche and the principled
moral dignity of Kant. The integrity and brilliance of Erwin Rommell
and the cold bureaucratic cowardice of Himmler and the "final solution." The
genius of German thought and science and the ignominious slaughter of
invasion and domination from the Vandals on up to Hitler. The Germans
have been responsible for some of Western Civilization's most elevating
achievements as well as some of its most heinous crimes. They are capable
of almost unparalleled brilliance and courtesy as well as the most blatant
tactlessness and cruelty.
It seems to me a most unique German phenomenon
that respected and highly-educated scientists would unthinkingly
and quite un-hypocratically conduct fatally obscene medical experiments
on captive Jews. An "undesirable element" may be put in a concentration
camp where he will be cruelly and unceremoniously worked to death.
But upon his expiration, a dutiful letter will be sent to his relatives
humbly indicating the date and cause of death, how medical treatments
were ineffective, how the burial costs will be covered by the State,
etc. It is especially confusing to try to find the connection between
the impressively organized democracy of modern Germany which I see
before me and the Germany of 1939. Although they are both a uniquely
German phenomenon, it is hard to reconcile the malevolent legacy
of Auschwitz and the kristallnacht with the elevating piousness of
a Bach chorale, so steeped in humble Protestantism. How strange to
be so technologically advanced and efficient and so scientifically
precise, yet so blind to the uses and consequences of such skills?
The supra-efficient war economy that fought the world to a standstill
was the same country that organized in an equally efficient manner
a mass-slaughter of the most crude nature.
"The German revolution will not prove any milder or
gentler because it was preceded by the Critique of Kant,
by the Transcendentalism of Fichte. These doctrines served to develop
revolutionary forces that only awaited their time to break forth.
Christianity subdued the brutal warrior passion of the Germans,
but it could not quench it. When the cross, that restraining talisman,
falls to pieces, then will break forth again the frantic Beserker
rage. The old stone gods will then arise from the forgotten ruins
and wipe from their eyes the dust of the centuries. Thor with his
giant hammer will arise again, and he will shatter the Gothic cathedrals....
...and this was written by Heinrich Heine over a hundred years before
the rise of Hitler and Nazism - from a German poet whom I had always
known for his love poetry! Is it possible that the genius of Bach was
always only a few steps away from the Germanic barbarians fighting
the Roman legions to a vicious standstill on the borders of civilization?
"Smile not at the dreamer who warns you against Kantians,
Fichteans, and the other philosophers. Smile not at the fantasy
of one who foresees in the region of reality the same outburst
of revolution that has taken place in the region of the intellect.
The thought precedes the deed as the lightning the thunder.
German thunder is of true German character. It is not very
nimble, but rumbles along somewhat slowly. But come it will,
and when you hear a crashing sound as never before has been
heard in the world's history, then know that at last the German
thunderbolt has fallen..."
I have spent much time thinking of Nazism
and its results, of German history from the marauding barbarian tribes
on up, what I have personally seen in Germany and of Germans, and
what I have read and heard of German intellectual thought and literature
-the inconsistencies and paradoxes are enough to make my head want
to explode! My American-Jewish friends hold a deeply entrenched hate
of Germany and things German that transcends the rational and often
sits just below the conscious. This is almost a defining aspect of
the modern Jew: "Only an irredeemably sick culture could have perpetrated
the Holocaust!," and "The Germans tried to exterminate us and we
will never forget!" It is highly personal, and on a certain level
Germany will always be the enemy of Jews everywhere. Forever. And
with the advent of neo-Nazism in Germany today, everyone questions
the trustworthiness of modern Germany. I cannot personally leave
Germany with any kind of feeling that such a crime could again occur
there. But I am sure I will leave here unable to explain or understand
many aspects of Germany. For to visit Berlin is to meet history,
both recent and distant.
Gaunt holocaust death-camp victims await liberation by the Allies.
What is it about the German psyche
that made the Germans so whole-heartedly support Hitler which produced
the bloodiest war in history and the holocaust? Modern Germans remark
upon how the worst excesses of the Nazis were carefully kept away from
the public and that many Germans supported Hitler grudgingly out of anti-Bolshevism,
or fear of anarchy. There is truth to this, but it does not, in my opinion,
explain the substantial emotional support that Hitler tapped with his
anti-Semitism and racial superiority. After all, Hitler carefully stated
exactly what he was going to do when he took power in Mein Kampf, and
then he did it. The German people has been warned. The German people
were genuinely surprised that Hitler got them into a huge world war fighting
almost everyone, and that they were personally getting the shit bombed
out of them. It should not seem so surprising upon reading Hitler's bellicose
pre-war statements, but I guess it is a matter of selective attention
- seeing what one wants to see. Thomas Mann, writing after the war, rationalized
a bit much when he claimed, "There are not two Germanys, an evil and
a good one, which, through devil's cunning, transformed its best into
evil." The Germans legally handed over totalitarian power to Hitler
and by then it was too late to do anything, even if they had wanted to.
I do not accept the Germans as mere victims of Nazi oppression, for Hitler
was a uniquely German phenomenon and embodied the worst they have to
offer. Perhaps the subject is more appropriate in the realm of deviant
social psychology than in that of political science. The Germans accepted
too easily the role of conqueror and master to lay all the blame on scapegoats.
There is an arrogance to German thought
which manifests itself in a sort of conquering evangelicism, ie.
that the sin, evil, and corruption of the world would be erased if
the superiority of German ways and wares were acknowledged. The German
nation needs room to expand and it will take this land by virtue
of the strength of German arms! There is a kind of German proto-mythological
hero archetype which glorifies the barbarian blond conqueror of unworthy
and corrupt races. It is like some majestic and unstoppable bird
of prey whose inherent superiority gives it the right to act as a
predator. It is true that modern Germany has publicly taken the bitter
lessons of WWII to heart and is loudly un-militaristic and unthreatening.
Perhaps the historical cycle of Frederick the Great to Bismarck to
Wilhelm to Hitler to whomever is next has been stopped. But the German
has historically moved to easily and unambivalently into the role
of aggressor and conqueror for my comfort of my mind. Like a petulant
child or neurotic mensch, Germany has always felt herself misunderstood
and unfairly accused. Postwar Germany notwithstanding, democracy
never took root much in Germany. Bismarck summed it up well: "The
great questions of the day will not be settled by resolutions and
majority votes - that was the mistake of the men of 1848 and 1849
- but by blood and iron."
One evening, I was at a sidewalk cafe
ordering some sausages for dinner where a couple of older German
men were eating also. They were inebriated, to say the least. One
of them inquired if I was American and then launched into a speech
about how great America and Americans are - going so far as trying
to hug me! He said that Germany was "no good. Good only for war!" Another
elderly gentlemen who claimed to be an old army officer came up and
rebuked him, even clicking his feet together in some sort of exclamation.
This sounds like an implausible scene but I swear to God it happened!
And yet I have many times met native Germans personally and have
been nothing but impressed by their courteousness, refinement, and
erudition. To attempt to talk about Nazism with them would be taken
almost as an insult, "That is all in the past." And yet the past
always continues to influence the present as well as the future.
And now Germany is unified and taking
a more active role in the political life of the European Community.
This is a basic change in the post-war NATO collective security arrangement
designed to "Keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans
down." We Americans have been urging the Germans to play a political
role more commensurate with their economic strength, and now some
are worried about renewed German domination of Europe, even if it
is only of an economic nature. All this, of course, happens at the
expense of the French. There seems to be a perpetual tug of war between
Paris and Berlin as to which is the heart of Europe. Paris is the
cultural center with all the charm, refinement, and art of the more
prosperous Western Europe while Berlin is the geographic heart of
greater Europe including the Slavs and the larger number of people
and material resources. The Parisians resent the greater physical
power of the Berliners, and the Berliners supposedly hold an inferiority
complex as to the beauty, charm, and respectability of Paris.
Berliners celebrate the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.
Today organizations like the Simon
Wiesenthal Center and other Jewish organizations seek to keep the holocaust
and Germany's war guilt fresh in everybody's mind in the hopes that people
will never forget what happened. I think the chances of people forgetting
the Nazis and the Holocaust slim whether the Jews constantly remind people
or not. And I wonder at the wisdom of keeping fresh in our consciences
all these war crimes which are already half a century old. Ripping old
wounds open anew I suspect militates against the spirit of reconciliation
and forgiveness in Europe.
We could use less emotional reactions
and let the soothing balm of time heal the scars of the past. One
of my best friends is Jewish and he would not ever consider visiting
Germany, reading German authors, or listening to the music of Wagner,
etc. "What a waste!" I think. For emotional reasons, he is
closing himself off to many beautiful and worthwhile things which
come from German culture. For my friend, the emotions of the issue
run so strongly that for him to be German is to be evil. He feels
so strongly about it that he will not even consider another point
of view. And he has even more contempt for the Poles who didn't kills
Jews but handed them over to the Nazis! And yet it is becoming rarer
and rarer to even encounter Germans or Poles who were even adults
during WWII! To suffer the sins of the fathers on the sons makes
no sense; perhaps we should let the Third Reich die along with those
Germans who were old enough to remember it. This does not mean that
we should forget it.
Only history will tell whether the decision
to take the shackles off the German nation is a prudent one. I personally
think it was an idea whose time had come. Yet to say that the Germans
are an enigmatic people is to understate things. I came here with
questions and I will leave here with only more questions.
We went out one night here in West Berlin
and had the worst luck in finding good bars. All we could find were
lame discos with expensive beer and we even stumbled into of all
places a gay bar. After spending too much money for not very much
fun, we ended up drunk and Matt threw up in our room. It is not easy
to understate how pissed and offended the girls were. I thought it
was funny, but mostly because the girls freaked out so much.
The "alternative scene" is big in Western
Berlin. I guess the West Berliners are exempt from the military draft
and so the radical population is large. We stopped at the "Ex," an
alternative bar and it was scary: lots of black and leather, militant
murals of barricaded radicals firing guns at the police, men with
guns everywhere, etc. These people call themselves "autonomns," and
they are known for their cynicism - they have supposedly earned the
unique distinction of hating almost everything besides themselves.
The larger than life pictures on the walls are taken from the chaos
of the Weimar Republic and I asked myself, "As if with their history,
Germany needed more of this!" The night I was there, they were having
an NOlympics party pertaining to the possible location of Berlin
for a future Olympics. However, I later learned this sentiment came
from the lack of affordable real estate in Berlin rather than from
anti-Olympic convictions. It is reputed that these people have huge
blow-outs with the police. There are a lot more radicals in Berlin
than in Paris or London. Yet I have heard that Berlin has always
had a very liberal populace, relative to the rest of Germany.
East Berlin is completely different than
the West. It is largely untouched since the War, and this is both
good and bad. It is good because much of the pre-war German grace
is left intact and there is not much of the frenetic frenzy and chaos
of West Berlin. One can see the former Stateliness of Berlin circa-1930
on the Unter der Linden Boulevard. The bad side (and it is very bad)
is that the place is pretty much a dump. Except for a few dour parks,
East Berlin is in an advanced stage of decay. Most of the buildings
are falling apart, and some still have bullet holes in them from
50 years earlier!
It was very strange to be walking where
only a few years before the dreaded East German secret police prowled.
From the nasty days of the Cold War, "East Berlin" is a term synonymous
with fear and menace, an omnipresent police and a pitiless scrutiny.
From numerous works of fiction and non-fiction I've read in my childhood
and later, East Berlin is the dreaded arena of shadowy covert actions
with agents looming under the threat of violent discovery and brutal
interrogation under some sadistic interrogator. All that is gone
now, and to me it is an optimistic testament to the ability of man
to change his society for the better. During my visit of 1991, the
most striking aspect of East Berlin was its quiescent un-ostentatiousness.
The heart of East Berlin lies around
the area of Alexanderplatz and what is supposed to be the center
of East German socialism. There is a large radio tower which can
be seen from the west and a statue of Marx and Engels centered in
the middle of a group of portraits of socialist slogans and propaganda.
Perhaps the most poignantly powerful thing I have seen in Europe,
the hands and mouths of these two working class heroes have been
painted red and the blood drips down onto the ground. We also visited
the Pergomonmuseum which boasts an almost perfectly preserved Alter
of Zeus built in 180 B.C. in Greece. It is hundreds of feet in diameter
and is exactly what I had always pictured a Greek temple in terms
of how its size and splendor symbolize the perfection, power, and
beauty of the gods. Before WWII, the area around the Unter der Linden
street was one of the classiest and ritziest streets of Europe. It
leads west from Alexanderplatz to the desolate fields surrounding
the Brandenberg Gates. Across from the museums is Bebelplatz, a square
where the Nazis held their book burnings. The old burned out Jewish
Synagogue for years stood unrepaired with a sign in front that reads, "Never
forget this." Appropriately, I think, to the new spirit of German
reconciliation, the temple is being rebuilt. However, the powers
that be have found it necessary to post a policeman in front of the
The girls left us to go their own way
and Matt and I took the "S Bahn" out to the Treptower Park and the
Soviet War Memorial. Impressive, even in the dramatic and large scale-style
of the Russians, the monument must be a 3/4 mile in circumference
dominated by a 100 foot tall Soviet soldier holding a child. One
enters the memorial and looks between two huge red arches that frames
the soldier a 1/2 mile away. Walking toward the soldier, there are
pictures of the Red Army with quotes by Stalin carved on slabs of
marble taken from Hitler's Chancellery. The monument is fabulous,
as is the other Soviet Army memorial near the Brandenberg Tor. The
Soviet Army did fight a valiant and heroic struggle against the Nazis
but how arrogant to put such epic monuments up to oneself in a defeated
foe's capital! It is like rubbing it in.
The Soviet legacy is large among the
east although now nary a Soviet can be found in public. I think the
future will prove the west (ie. the French, U.S., and British) as
better remembered and judged in their role in post-war Germany, even
though ironically there are no public monuments to them. Perhaps
the whole episode was prognosticated by the fact that not a single
German soldier at the end of WWII preferred to surrender to the Soviets
rather than to the Americans, British or French.
The Soviets always attempted to identify
Nazi Germany as the ideological arch-enemy of their political system.
The Marxist-Leninists are located on the left of the political spectrum
and the Nazi fascists on the right, the conventional thinking runs.
And then after WWII the Soviet Union tried to paint the Western democracies
- especially the United States - with the same fascist paintbrush.
In truth, the Soviets and Nazis had much more in common with each
other than they ever had with the parliamentary democracies. They
were both totalitarian nightmares with a small group of men - "Nazis" and "Bolsheviks" -
terrorizing/leading their countries with an ideology as justification
for murder: the superiority and violence of race on the one side;
the superiority and violence of class on the other. They both believed
that in order to improve mankind they had to murder a portion of
it - like a doctor surgically removing a cancer for the greater health
of the patient. As Paul Johnson described:
"Once Lenin had abolished the idea
of personal guilt, and had started to 'exterminate' (a word he
frequently employed) whole classes, merely on account of occupation
or parentage, there was no limit to which this deadly principle
might be carried. Might not entire categories of people be classified
as 'enemies' and condemned to imprisonment or slaughter merely
on account of the colour of their skin, or their racial origins
or, indeed, their nationality? There is no essential moral difference
between class-warfare and race-warfare, between destroying a
class and destroying a race. Thus the modern practise of genocide
Sir Isaiah Berlin also put it well:
"The divisions of mankind into two
groups - men proper, and some other, lower, order of beings,
inferior races, inferior cultures, subhuman creatures, nations
or classes condemned by history - is something new in human history.
It is a denial of common humanity - a premise upon which all
previous humanism, religious and secular, had stood. This new
attitude permits men to look on many millions of their fellow
men as not quite human, to slaughter them without a qualm of
conscience, without the need to try to save them or warn them.
Such conduct is usually ascribed to barbarians or savages - men
in a pre-rational frame of mind, characteristic of peoples in
the infancy of civilisation. This explanation will no longer
do. It is evidently possible to attain to a high degree of scientific
knowledge and skill, and indeed, of general culture, and yet
destroy others without pity, in the name of a nation, a class,
or history itself. If this is childhood, it is the dotage of
a second childhood in its most repulsive form. How have men reached
such a pass?"
In all this, the Bolsheviks and Nazis were very similar - if not identical.
When the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany finally (inevitably?) went to
war against each other, it was with the passion of two thieves after
a falling out or blood cousins in a bitter civil war who hate each
other excessively and intimately and are capable of any barbarity.
Serious differences between the Nazis and Soviets? I hold them to be
cosmetic while the spirit of the two regimes was similar. I hate the
Third Reich was one might hate mob violence and thuggery. I hate the
Soviet Union as one hates a lie. It all comes down to the difference
between a liberal and illiberal society. Betrand Russell defined it
well: "The fundamental difference between the liberal and the illiberal
outlook is that the former regards all questions as open to discussion
and all opinions as open to a greater or lesser measure of doubt, while
the latter holds in advance that certain opinions are absolutely unquestionable,
and that no argument against them must be allowed be heard. What is
curious about this position is the belief that if impartial investigation
were permitted it would lead men to the wrong conclusion, and that
ignorance is, therefore, the only safeguard against terror. This point
of view cannot be accepted by any man who wishes reason rather than
prejudice to govern human action."
Hitler was honest enough about it when
he wrote in Mein Kampf: "Either the world will be ruled according
to the ideas of our modern democracy, or the world will be dominated
according to the natural law of force; in the latter case the people
of brute force will be victorious." Lenin was attributed to have
said, "The worst enemies of the new radicals [Bolsheviks] are the
old liberals." The Third Reich was bombed into the ground in 1945,
and today the Soviet Union is descending into its grave under the
heavy weight of its corruption, mismanagement, crimes, and tyrannies
over more than 70 years. Good riddance to them both!
Matt and I had a very pleasant beer in
an out of the way, hole in the wall East Berlin bar. The people were
generous and our "Americaness" was still novel to the owners who
amicably made jokes of our height and mimicked the motions of throwing
an American football. Blissfully, they spoke no English. The beer
was excellent, cheap, and served in a beautiful pilsner glass which
is so common in Germany. Matt bought the glass on the spot from an
astounded proprietor. This little incident typifies the differences
between East and West Berlin: expensive and semi-touristy bars in
the west and cheap "dives" in the east. Another good example of the
differences is a train ride through Berlin in the middle of the night,
with the west brightly lit up by street lights and buildings and
the east almost completely dark.
I felt a little bad enjoying the cheap
prices so much in East Berlin. As British punk rocker Johnny Rotten
described his time in East Berlin: "A cheap holiday in other people's