People today are understandably confused when they hear “Fourth Reich” and Germany combined in the same sentence. They cannot put two and two together because they continue to look for Nazis running the country. There are none.
The Fourth Reich of today is economic dominance and subjugation of the European continent which will later turn the landscape into a United States of Europe — the only way for the Euro, or single currency bloc to survive. The only solution is further integration, and further integration means destroying national sovereignty from country to country and doing things the hegemon’s way.
Along with an upcoming United States of Europe will be a European Army, thanks in part to the suicide of the United States and Russian threats from the East. Many may not see it, but it’s going in that direction step by step. Whether one chooses to believe it or not doesn’t change the fact that it in fact is happening, albeit at a slow pace, before their very eyes.
If you’re still looking for Nazis, you’re 70-plus years late to the party.
Following World War II, a German return to dominance in Europe seemed an impossibility. But the euro crisis has transformed the country into a reluctant hegemon and comparisons with the Nazis have become rampant. Are they fair?
May 30, 1941 was the day when Manolis Glezos made a fool of Adolf Hitler. He and a friend snuck up to a flag pole on the Acropolis in Athens on which a gigantic swastika flag was flying. The Germans had raised the banner four weeks earlier when they occupied the country, but Glezos took down the hated flag and ripped it up. The deed turned both him and his friend into heroes.
Back then, Glezos was a resistance fighter. Today, the soon-to-be 93-year-old is a member of the European Parliament for the Greek governing party Syriza. Sitting in his Brussels office on the third floor of the Willy Brandt Building, he is telling the story of his fight against the Nazis of old and about his current fight against the Germans of today. Glezos’ white hair is wild and unkempt, making him look like an aging Che Guevara; his wrinkled face carries the traces of a European century.
Glezos knows what it can mean when Germans strive for predominance in Europe and says that’s what is happening again now. This time, though, it isn’t soldiers who have a chokehold on Greece, he says, but business leaders and politicians. “German capital dominates Europe and it profits from the misery in Greece,” Glezos says. “But we don’t need your money.”
In his eyes, the German present is directly connected to its horrible past, though he emphasizes that he doesn’t mean the German people but the country’s ruling classes. Germany for him is once again an aggressor today: “Its relationship with Greece is comparable to that between a tyrant and his slaves.”
Glezos says that he is reminded of a text written by Joseph Goebbels in which the Nazi propaganda minister reflects about a future Europe under German leadership. It’s called “The Year 2000.” “Goebbels was only wrong by 10 years,” Glezos says, adding that in 2010, in the financial crisis, German dominance began.
People have even begun talking about the “Fourth Reich,” a reference to the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler. That may sound absurd given that today’s Germany is a successful democracy without a trace of national-socialism — and that no one would actually associate Merkel with Nazism. But further reflection on the word “Reich,” or empire, may not be entirely out of place. The term refers to a dominion, with a central power exerting control over many different peoples. According to this definition, would it be wrong to speak of a German Reich in the economic realm?
Surveys abroad, to be sure, have found that Germans are widely respected overseas. But in Europe today, people are nevertheless quick to cry Nazi when German policy becomes uncomfortable.
The accusations against the German government have a strange dialectic: Germany is dominating, people say, but it isn’t leading. It is a hegemon, but a weak one. That, too, leads us to history. In his 1987 book “From Bismarck to Hitler,” historian Sebastian Haffner wrote that turn-of-the-century Germany had an “unwieldy size.” It was, he said, both too big and too small. That may be true once again.
‘The Blood of Our People’
The fear of German hegemony in Europe is likely nowhere so great as it is in France, which was at least partially occupied by its neighbor three times during an 80-year period. In recent years, “Germanophobia” has increased dramatically across the political spectrum, from Front National to the leftist wing of the governing Socialists. That has partially served to distract attention from political leaders’ own failures to implement reform, but they are nonetheless sentiments that deserve to be taken seriously.
The day before, Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder sounded similarly aggressive during an appearance on a German talk show with Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. He didn’t miss a single opportunity to gloat about Bavaria’s economic and financial strength.
Volker Kauder, the conservatives’ floor leader in German parliament, is the author of a particularly triumphalist example of the new tone, uttered way back in 2011. At a party conference of Merkel’s Christian Democrats in Leipzig, Kauder said in a speech: “Suddenly, German is being spoken in Europe.” Though CDU delegates loved it, the sentence was not well received further afield and Kauder now says he wouldn’t repeat it.
The change in Germany’s approach to European policy has been dramatic. Helmut Kohl sought to avoid isolation at all costs when it came to important negotiations, but Merkel has all but completely rejected that approach. “I am rather alone in the EU, but I don’t care. I am right,” she once said to a small group of advisors during a discussion about the role of the IMF. Later, she said: “We are in Europe what the Americans are in the world: the unloved leading power.”
The Dominance of Others
After the end of the Third Reich, German dominance on the Continent appeared to have been rendered an impossibility for all time. West Germany and East Germany both were initially tentative states that more or less willingly subordinated themselves to their big brothers, the US and the Soviet Union. They ceded to the dominance of others.
West Germany, though, soon developed a new — economic this time — instrument of power: the deutsche mark. Because the West German economy grew rapidly and its sovereign debt remained relatively manageable, the German central bank, the Bundesbank, dominated economic and financial policy in Europe in the 1970s and 80s. Governments in France, Britain and Italy paid close attention to the decisions being made in Frankfurt. Shortly before German reunification, a senior official in the office of the French president was quoted as saying: “We may have the nuclear bomb, but the Germans have the deutsche mark.”
François Mitterrand, president of France when the Berlin Wall fell, was not a fan of German reunification. He was afraid that a German colossus in the middle of Europe might soon begin seeking political dominance once again. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher believed so too, as did many Germans, particularly on the left wing. Author Günter Grass believed the country would return to its old hubris, its feeling of superiority.
‘More Like an Empire’
The investor George Soros warned that Europe could become split between countries with trade surpluses and those with deficits, describing it as a German empire in the middle of Europe with the periphery as its hinterlands. Empire, of course, is another word for Reich.
In today’s world, dominated as it is by economic issues, rulers and the ruled have ceded their historical roles to creditors and debtors. Germany is Europe’s largest creditor. Creditors have power over the debtors: They expect gratitude and they often have clear ideas regarding what the debtors must do so that they can one day pay back the money they owe. Creditors are not generally well liked.
…Germany is acting not like a hegemon, but like a “semi-hegemon.” It is an argument previously made by the German historian Ludwig Dehio in describing Germany’s position in Europe after 1871. Though the context was radically different, former Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski also said in a speech in Berlin in November 2011 that he was less afraid of German power than he was of German inaction and urged Germany to take the lead in Europe.
Full article: ‘The Fourth Reich’: What Some Europeans See When They Look at Germany (Spiegel Online)