|Veteran German Socialist Speaks Against War
PARALLELS BETWEEN HITLER AND BUSH
By Barry Sheppard and Caroline Lund
[The following interview with Heinrich Fleischer was conducted in
Minneapolis about one month before the U.S. launched its invasion/occupation
We met Heinrich Fleischer by accident, at a retirement home in Minneapolis
while visiting Caroline¹s father. We soon learned that his remarkable life
has enabled him to make important insights into what is happening today.
Heinrich was born in Germany in 1912, and studied to become an organist.
His lifelong profession was as a performer on that instrument as well as a
teacher of it.
Under the Nazis, Heinrich became a socialist. "At first, I was sympathetic
to the Socialists and the Communists because Hitler was against them, and I
was against Hitler," Fleischer said. "Then in 1937, when I was in a
bookshop in Leipzig, the owner apparently thought I was trustworthy and
would be interested, and dug out a copy of The Communist Manifesto by Marx
and Engels. This pamphlet was of course banned by the Hitler regime, and
possession of it could result in imprisonment or execution." Heinrich would
later say that he became a Marxist in the course of the Second World War.
We asked him how he felt after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. "I
felt the same horror as I did during the December 1943 American fire-bombing
of Leipzig, Germany during the war. I felt then like I imagine the people
in the Twin Towers felt, those who died and those who survived, at the
moment the planes hit the buildings. I was lying in bed in a fifth floor
apartment when the window blew out at 2 a.m. The bombing was so intense
that it looked like daylight outside. There were thousands of planes. I
was paralyzed with terror and fear. I could only think, Someone in a plane
above me wants to kill me. Why?¹
"The next day I met a professor of theology, a neighbor. He said, We are
very grateful to God. No one in my family died.¹ How could he not feel sad
and horrified that 10,000 people were killed? His God is either good but
powerless, or is evil, or is good but doesn¹t care about people. When I
heard about September 11, that is what I remembered.
"Bush prays to his God very often. Those who attacked the Twin Towers
prayed to their God. Israel¹s Sharon prays to his God. Which God is it?"
Turning to the present, he said, "February 2003 today seems very much like
August 1939 in Germany. Everyone knew war was coming. The German people
were skeptical about the need for war, as many in the U.S. are today.
Hitler claimed that tiny Poland threatened not only Germany but all of
Europe, and Germany had to take action to defend itself and Europe. Bush
claims that tiny Iraq threatens the United States (as ridiculous a claim as
Hitler¹s regarding Poland) and its neighbors in the Middle East. Bush goes
Hitler one better by claiming Iraq threatens the whole world.
"Hitler believed he had a special mission from Providence,¹ like Mohammed,
to lead the Aryan-Germanic race to dominate the world, an empire with Berlin
as its center. Bush¹s mission seems to be to impose U.S. domination of the
world, under the slogans of free markets and democracy, an empire with
Washington or Wall Street as its center. Both Hitler and Bush claimed God
was on their side, and had anointed their respective nations as superior to
any other, which justified their "missions."
"There are other similarities. Hitler¹s army was fully mobilized at the
Polish border, as the U.S. army is mobilized on Iraq¹s. The Reichstag
[German parliament] had given Hitler unlimited extraordinary power in 1933,
and the U.S. Congress voted to give Bush extraordinary power, even if not on
the same scale as Hitler got, with the adoption of the Patriot Act after
September 11, 2001.
"Mussolini followed Hitler¹s lead and Blair follows Bush¹s, like the
character Leporello in Mozart¹s Don Giovanni.
"Goering initially warned against an attack on Poland, as did Powell
regarding Iraq, but both then gave in.
"Both Hitler¹s invasion and the coming attack on Iraq made Germany and now
the United States hated around the world.
"The German people knew the war against Poland would be short, perhaps only
three or four weeks, with the gigantic German war machine pitted against the
greatly inferior Polish army. Victory was inevitable, though not
particularly "heroic." But thinking Germans feared what would come after.
And they were right. After the war against Poland, came the declaration of
war by Britain and France, making the war into a European war. When Hitler,
drunk with power and victory after the defeat of France, invaded Yugoslavia,
Greece, and the Soviet Union and finally declared war on the United States
making it a world war.
"The situation is different today, but where will the invasion and
occupation of Iraq lead? The military might of the U.S. will undoubtedly
prevail over the weak and ill-equiped Iraqi army. But what happens next?
Already the Bush administration has threatened Syria, Iran and North Korea.
U.S. bases have been established in former Soviet Republics in central Asia
as a result of the attack on Afghanistan. Former Warsaw pact nations have
joined NATO. Russia is becoming encircled, and the prospect is for a
massive long-term U.S. armed occupation force in Iraq on Russia¹s borders.
How long can Russia remain passive in the face of such provocations?"
We asked Heinrich what future he saw for the children of today and tomorrow.
"It could be very bad," he said. "Not only Russia, but China too is now
more encircled with the U.S. bases in central Asia. Both are atomic powers.
There could be a nuclear war if America continues to behave like it is now.
My feeling is that Washington thinks it can survive a nuclear war, and this
is very dangerous."
[After the war against Iraq started, Heinrich sent us a letter. "Monday,
March 17, 9 p.m. -- I just heard and saw George W. Bush. It reminded me of
Hitler¹s speech in the Reichstag on September 1, 1939," he wrote.
[While not the speech referred to, the following proclamation Hitler issued
to the Army on September 1, 1939 was undoubtedly similar:
[The Polish state has refused the peaceful settlement of relations which I
desired, and has appealed to arms. Germans in Poland are persecuted with
bloody terror and driven from their houses. A series of violations of the
frontier, intolerable to a great Power, prove that Poland is no longer
willing to respect the frontier of the Reich.
[In order to put an end to this lunacy, I have no other choice than to meet
force with force from now on. The German Army will fight the battle for the
honor and the vital rights of reborn Germany with hard determination. I
expect that every soldier, mindful of the great traditions of eternal German
soldiery, will ever remain conscious that he is a representative of the
National-Socialist Greater Germany. Long live our people and our Reich!]
"Of course, there is a big difference between the situation in the U.S.
today and Germany in 1939," Heinrich told us in February. "Germany was a
fascist dictatorship. The organizations of the working class, the Communist
and Socialist parties and the trade unions, had been smashed. The Nazis
crushed dissent in all areas of society.
"In the U.S., demonstrations against the war are still legal. I have been
tremendously happy to see student activity, antiwar newspapers, and the
massive antiwar actions in the United States and throughout the world. It¹s
good that people all over the world can see that there is a difference
between the American people and the government.
"This new worldwide antiwar movement, with its vanguard detachment in the
belly of the beast, has become a force against Washington¹s imperial
ambitions. If enough resistance is put up in the streets throughout the
world and especially in the U.S., and by the Iraqi people and the people of
other countries attacked by the U.S. in the future in its unending war,
Washington can be held in check. To join this fight is the moral imperative
of our times."
Barry and Caroline