Nazism’s war on the reality-based community

More from Milton Mayer’s They Thought They Were Free: the Germans 1933-45:

Because the mass movement of Nazism was nonintellectual in the beginning, when it was only practice, it had to be anti-intellectual before it could be theoretical… Expertness in thinking, exemplified by the professor, by the high-school teacher, and even by the grammar-school teacher in the village, had to deny the Nazi views of history, economics, literature, art philosophy, politics, biology, and education itself.

Thus Nazism, because it proceeded from practice to theory, had to deny expertness in thinking and then (this second process was never completed), in order to full that vacuum, had to establish expert thinking of its own–that is, to find men of inferior or irresponsible caliber whose views conformed dishonestly or, worse yet, honestly, to the Party line… The nonpolitical schoolmaster was, by the very virtue of being nonpolitical, a dangerous man from the first. He himself would not rebel, nor would he, if he could help it, teach rebellion; but he could not help being dangerous–not if he went on teaching what was true. In order to be a theory and not just a practice, National Socialism required the destruction of academic independence.

In the years of its rise the movement little by little brought the community’s attitude toward the teacher around from respect and any to resentment, from trust and fear to suspicion. The development seems to have been inherent; it needed no planning and had none. As the Nazi emphasis on nonintellectual virtues (patriotism, loyalty, duty, purity, labor, simplicity, “blood,” “folk-ishness”) seeped through Germany, elevating the self-esteem of the “little man,” the academic profession was pushed from the center to the very periphery of society. Germany was preparing to cut its own head off. By 1933 at least five of my ten friends (and I think six or seven) looked upon “intellectuals” as unreliable and, among these unreliables, upon academics as the most insidiously situated.

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