Diary of a Man in Despair

No, not this blog, but a fascinating book, a series of journal entries from 1936 to 1945 by a German writer living under the Nazis and who from the outset is utterly appalled by them, seeing them as utterly mindless thugs who blackmailed their way into office. But he seems almost more offended by their gaucheness and Hitler’s own glaring pettiness in his origins and his outlook. The writer Friedrich Rech has come into social proximity with Hitler on a few occasions, and alikens him to a desperate head-waiter, and it’s full of the kind of overwhelming nose-wrinkling snobbishness you’d somewhat expect of someone of old, conservative Junker who’s become a professional theatre critic, as Rech was. Someone into whom such views are almost carried down from a refined gene pool, and one could probably never even beat him into believing any different. But in terms of where he sees it all going, a i.e. a very big, very violent end is in the offing, Rech is not wrong at all. He also dumps all over the tawdry tackiness of the new order of consumerism and materialism, which Huxley also goes on about in Brave New World (although I think Huxley didn’t think it so bad), and incredible violence arising from base greed and lust for total shit (as we see these days in midnight sales at IKEA). Mass-man ….

VW cornerstone

In August 1936 he writes of his most recent glimpse of Hitler:

I saw Hitler last in Seebruck, slowly gliding by in a car with armour plated sides, while an armed bodyguard of motorcyclists rode in front as further protection: a jelly-like, slag-gray face, a moonface into which two melancholy jet-black eyes had been set like raisins. So sad, so unutterably insignificant, so basically misbegotten in this countenance that only thirty years ago, in the darkest days of Wilhelmism, such a face on an official would have been impossible. Appearing in the chair of a minister, an apparition with a face like this would have been disobeyed as soon as its mouth spoke an order – and not merely by the higher officials in the ministry: no, by the doormen, by the cleaning women! 

And today? I hear that Hitler recently ended a report – by William Keitel, the Army commander – which had given him reason for dissatisfaction, by throwing a bronze vase at the head of the general. Isn’t this the kind of thing that happens when a people is sinking in a cesspool of its own disgrace? ‘And all that they did was as it should have been, because it was God’s will.’ … 

What I saw gliding by there, behind the fence of his mamelukes, like the Prince of Darkness himself, was no human being. That was a figure out of a ghost story. 

A ghostly face, gliding past. Not doing some great speech, not walking tall among tens of thousands of stormtroopers at a rally, not hovering over a map or juxtaposed with images of the Holocaust, the full horror of which had yet to come, but just a ghostly face, amid minions, gliding past


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